Before the draft started, ESPN broadcasted videos of the potential draftees. When Danilo Gallinari was shown on the big screen, the MSG crowd erupted in a chorus of boos. An hour later the Knicks would draft Danilo Gallinari. Of course Knick fans greeted him with a second chorus of boos.
The dislike of Gallinari isn’t from anything the youngster has done. In fact most fans have never seen him play. Most Knicks fans knowledge of Gallinari is limited to what’s been reported about him and a few clips on YouTube. It’s safe to say that a majority of naysayers have never watched him play a single game. So why all the hate?
There are two simple reasons. The first is how the media has portrayed Gallinari. Leading up to the draft I read a lot of articles speculating on the Knicks’ pick. Most, if not all, depicted Danilo as an unathletic player who had family ties to Knick coach Mike D’Antoni. Vittorio Gallinari roomed with D’Antoni’s when the pair played in Italy. Although it was never mentioned specifically, the implication was that Gallinari wasn’t worth the 6th overall pick and only was on the Knicks radar due to nepotism.
But the reality is that Gallinari was thought to be a lottery pick even before D’Antoni was hired to coach New York. That Gallinari’s father played professionally should be a positive attribute. Children of athletes usually have the advantage of both genetics and round the clock coaching. Additionally Danilo’s high free throw rate shows him to be athletic enough to get to the rim.
The second reason is the failure of International picks over the last few years. Recent picks like Marco Belinelli, Yi Jianlian, Andrea Bargnani, Saer Sene, Oleksiy Pecherov, Yaroslav Korolev, Johan Petro haven’t exactly set the league on fire. And the Knicks have an especially bad track record with foreigners. Maciej Lampe barely survived in the NBA past his 21st birthday, and Frederick Weis is still the team’s biggest draft day blunder. The last Euro taken as high as Gallinari was his countryman Bargnani who went first overall to the Raptors 2 years ago. Bargnani has been such a failure, that the team traded its first rounder this year to replace him.
However Gallinari’s age 19 European season is superior to Bargnani’s. For instance Bargnani was a reserve (13.1MPG), while Gallinari was a starter (33.3MPG). Per 40 minutes Danilo scored more points (20.2 to 17.8), turned the ball over less (2.0 to 2.4), committed fewer fouls (3.1 to 6.2), and went to the foul line more often (7.6 to 4.1). He also shot better from downtown (38.1 to 35.2) and from the free throw line (83.5% to 59.5%). Even by Bargnani’s second season in Lega A, he still didn’t play as many minutes (23.5MPG) as Gallinari did as a 19 year old.
As with all draft picks, Gallinari may or may not have a fruitful NBA career. And like most draft picks it may take a season or two before we know which path he’s on. Considering his age and the Knicks depth at F (Richardson, Jeffries, Balkman, Chandler, Lee, Randolph, Rose) Danilo may start the season in the D-League. Luckily, Gallinari’s pedigree and statistical superiority to Bargnani should result in a brighter future.