The L.A. Clippers traded away their franchise point guard Chris Paul. But they won’t be left empty-handed after acquiring former Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari in a three-team deal.
Sources: The Clippers have reached agreement on a three-team deal to acquire free agent Danilo Gallinari on a three-year, $65M contract.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 5, 2017
The Clippers gave 37-year-old guard Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, and their 2018 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks. Gallinari and the Nuggets’ 2019 draft pick go to LA via Denver.
In addition to moving the 6’10” forward to their team, the Clippers have signed him to a three-year, $65-million deal. The sign-and-trade is crucial because Gallinari’s original contract wouldn’t fit under the salary cap.
The Hawks were needed so that LA could dump Crawford’s salary there; Atlanta later bought out Crawford because both sides wanted to part right away. Atlanta also sent All-Star forward Paul Millsap to the Nuggets because the Hawks are undergoing a full rebuild.
As for the Clippers, we have their odds of winning the 2018 NBA Championship at +7500. This is a far cry from the days when Chris Paul-led teams often came in with lofty championship expectations.
Will Gallinari have a bigger impact than our odds suggest? Let’s discuss this by covering the Italian pro’s impact on LA along with how he’ll fit in.
Clippers could Have the NBA’s Top Front Line
When the Clippers had Paul, Crawford, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and J.J. Redick, the one thing they were always missing was a really good small forward. It’s a shame that Crawford, Paul, and Redick (76ers) had to go before LA finally got this in Gallinari.
The 8-year veteran had one of his best NBA seasons last year, averaging 18.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 2.1 APG. He also shot a respectable 38.9% from beyond the three-point line.
But Gallinari brings a different dimension to this front line, one that includes driving and deep-shooting abilities.
The biggest issue for him will be staying healthy. He hasn’t played more than 71 games in the last six seasons. Last year he appeared in 63 games, which is his average.
Assuming Gallinari suits up enough for LA, they project to have one of the NBA’s top front lines – if not THE best. The only front line that compares across all three spots is Cleveland’s, which features C Tristan Thompson, PF Kevin Love, and SF LeBron James.
Can Gallinari Log Heavy Minutes at Small Forward?
As just mentioned, the Clippers could have the league’s top front line. But the drawback is that they won’t have the versatility to play Gallinari at both forward spots, which he’s used to doing.
Griffin and Jordan only know power forward and center, respectively. This could pose a problem when Gallinari has to guard faster forwards because he’s on the backside of his career and not getting any quicker.
Doc Rivers will have some work to do with juggling lineups that include the Jordan-Gallinari-Griffin trio. In order to put Gallinari in power-forward situations, one option includes bringing Wesley Johnson or Sam Dekker off the bench to play small forward when Griffin needs a breather.
Clippers Lose Everything at Guard Spots, but Gain Something Back
Moving away from Gallinari for a moment, LA will certainly miss their top three guards in Redick, Paul, and Crawford. But it’s not like they came out of the Paul trade without anything.
Beverly is one of the league’s best defensive guards, and he can also score (9.5 PPG) and shoot (38% three-point). Williams is a volume scorer (17.5 PPG) who’s one of the league’s best at drawing fouls (5.4 free throws per game).
Neither of these players will replace Paul, Crawford, or Redick. But they’re good enough to fill in while the front court (potentially) works their magic.
Outlook on 2017-18 LA Clippers
Gallinari has played for some bad Nuggets teams over the years. So nobody is more excited about joining a winning team than him.
Few are expecting the 2017-18 version of the Clippers to be better than the team last year, which finished fourth in the West with a 51-31 mark. But most expect this squad to be in line for a playoff spot.
On paper, this is our top 4 in the West right now:
- Golden State
- San Antonio
- Oklahoma City
After this, we think the Western Conference is wide open. And LA could very well compete with the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 5 seed.
But for now, the mission will simply be getting Gallinari, Griffin, and Jordan to gel in the front court. Once this happens, the dominoes will fall for the Clippers.