Here is an important read from Zach Lowe at Grantland.com about Danilo Gallinari and his recent resurgence with both the Denver Nuggets and in Eurobasket with team Italy.
For all the great research and play breakdown that Lowe does, one thing he could not put his finger on (nor can any other Nuggets fan or NBA fan) remains the same. Gallo's actual impact on the Nuggets, undeniably positive, cannot be explained by breaking down the way he plays or the shots he takes. There is something far, far more intangible that Gallo brings to the Nuggets that sets him apart (both positively and negatively) than most other players. What it IS exactly cannot be defined.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets other re-signee of this offseason is far more easily defined and tangible. Wilson Chandler, and what he brings to this particular Nuggets team has always been straightforward, tangible and more importantly VALUABLE. You look at Wilson and you see someone who can hit threes off the pass, drive to the lane and get easy buckets, and defend at a good level. Versitile, can guard and play multiple positions from power forward to (very) large shooting guard in some lineups. Wilson is as solid as a rock and you know exactly what you are getting from him.
Chandler's value is immense and was proven so last season as Gallo struggled to start the year and was moved to the bench by previous coach Brian Shaw. Chandler stepped in to the starting small forward slot and did everything he was asked. Many times more than he was asked. Check out the highlights below:
What you see from Wilson is what you get, and it makes the dynamic between himself and Gallo even more interesting. Something that hasn't been explored in depth enough. The Gallo/Chandler combination was part of almost every one of the Nuggets most effective lineups in the 57 win 2012-13 season. The versatility of both Chandler and Gallo allowed for effective defensive switching and tremendous perimeter length (along with Andre Iguodala aka "the mole"). Much of that success was do directly to Chandler and his tangible, definable abilities.
It's never been that easy with Gallo. As someone who IS the #1 Gallo fanboy (non Italian) I can't really put my finger on exactly what Gallo brings that makes him such a value to the Denver Nuggets. It just exists in this weird area where there is a package of skills and being a team-friendly player that combine to give us ... whatever it is. Gallo's actual numbers don't stand out. At all. His statistics are very middle of the pack in every category, combined with his injury history, and you have the recipe for your average NBA fan scratching their head as to why people like Gallo so much.
I have no good answer that isn't a bit ... esoteric. More on that later though.
The contradictory notion of the Nuggets perceived "folly" in re-signing Gallo and Chandler resides in an inherent paradox. The idea that the Nuggets should embrace a Philadelphia 76ers style rebuild as the "correct" notion is due almost entirely the fact that the duo would be desirable to contending teams but not good enough for Denver. While that may be true, the actual market for Gallo coming off major knee surgery was always sketchy. However, Lowe does mention one specific team while talking about the Italian wing that's been rumored to be wanting him for at least three seasons now. The Memphis Grizzlies. As follows:
But Gallinari’s positional flexibility is a strength, not a weakness. He should toggle between both positions for any team, depending on roster context, coaching strategy, and specific opponents. Memphis sniffed around Gallinari at the trade deadline, per several league sources, and would have used him just as it did Jeff Green: as its starting small forward, playing heavy minutes at power forward in bench lineups and situations that called for it. Teams with starting frontcourts less accomplished than the Grizzlies’ brothers-from-another-mother, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, might tilt the equation toward more minutes for Gallinari at power forward.
There were rumors of Grizzlies executive John Hollinger's interest in Gallo going all the way back to the trade deadline in 2013 ... and one such rumored trade featured Rudy Gay. I can speak for Nuggets fans everywhere in saying that if this particular rumor is true thank Masai Ujiri for not pulling the trigger on that sort of deal, regardless of Gallo's subsequent injury. We need not go further from that mark. That desire to get Gallo didn't die according to Lowe.
Another team with rumored long-time interest in Gallo was the Boston Celtics and their GM Danny Ainge. Again dating back to the trade deadline of 2013. Boston was another team that professed interest in Gallo again this summer (through the media at the very least). I'm assuming that Boston's truckload of various future first round picks was in the mix if the rumors this summer were true.
Regardless, there's always been heavy interest in Gallo and for that matter Chandler. They are desired pieces of the Nuggets puzzle without having gaudy numbers and flashy statistics. Gallo in particular baffles.
I come back to a moment. Really, it's only a moment. Maybe it explains the intangible, positive affect on the Nuggets that Gallo has. Utah, April 3rd 2013 ... the brightest moment before the dark.
While that moment was taken to symbolize the Nuggets togetherness, it was also a simple fact that an entire team got up and celebrated a three pointer at the end of a blow out victory. For Gallo. You also see, from that highlight, how well Gallo and his buddy Chandler work together. A nice pass to an open three. It was all there that night. The very next game Gallo tore his ACL. The very next game.
Our former colleague Nate Timmons was in attendance that game has had at times described to me how deflated Pepsi Center was after Gallo went down against the Dallas Mavericks that fateful day in April, 2013. The moment that changed the future of the Nuggets franchise and their Hall of Fame head coach.
Moments are intangible. Player chemistry is tangible. Gallo plays well with Chandler. That is something everyone from Zach Lowe to the average guy on the street can see with their own eyes. What it doesn't capture in how one player, when he is right, can lift a whole team when his actual statistics don't back up the feeling. It's their where the confusion begins. Regardless, the tangible (Chandler) and the intangible (Gallo) both CHOSE to stay in Denver. Let me reiterate both chose to stay in Denver. That counts for something in a community that is still stung by Carmelo Anthony leaving for the bright lights of New York.
Who knows at this point. Lowe's column did a great job in showing what Gallo can and can't do, but he remains like the rest of us ... mystified by the "why". Mystified by the result. I can't say I blame him because I can't understand it either. That is why Gallo's two 40 point explosions at the end of the year were so ... exciting. That's why Gallo's Eurobasket performance continued that excitement. There's just .... something. Something there.
Gallo and Chandler. The Nuggets enigma.