Nuggets: Danilo Gallinari Playing Best Basketball Of Career

After years of being the go-to-guy for the Denver Nuggets, forward Danilo Gallinari is thriving in his new role as the quiet, now-discounted offensive weapon.

Danilo Gallinari doesn’t have his number called as frequently now that the Denver Nuggets offense runs through budding young superstar Nikola Jokic.

And yet, the nine-year NBA veteran has never played better.

Gallinari is averaging 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists so far this season, all of which are slightly down on what he managed last year.

If all of his major statistical catagories are less than what he produced last season, why is he playing his finest basketball to date this season?

Efficiency, consistency and comfort.

Gallinari is shooting 43.5 percent from the field this year, the second-best clip of his career. He is also knocking down 39.2 percent of his attempts behind the arc, his most efficient percentage since his 2008-09 season with the New York Knicks.

Taking a look at more recent play, Gallinari shot 47 percent from the field in the month of January, and a blistering 43.1 percent from distance.

His true shooting percentage of 60.8 percent is good for 21st in the league among qualifiers, ahead of notable sharpshooters Klay Thompson, J.J. Redick and Kyle Korver.

At 17.3 points, Gallinari is averaging the second-most points of his career and is doing so while having usage rate of just 19.3 percent, his lowest percentage since the 2009-10 season.

This shows his efficiency, as it means despite having the ball in his hands far less than in most previous seasons, he is still posting the second highest points average of his career.

What’s more impressive about Gallinari’s shooting numbers is the fact that they don’t substitute for lack of pure scoring output.

The veteran has scored in double digits in 41 of his 42 games so far this season and has become a pillar of consistency for a young Denver squad that currently finds itself in eighth place in the Western Conference.

A big part of that consistency comes with finally being healthy. Gallinari has accumulated a long list of injuries over the course of his career, including missing the entire 2013-14 season due to tearing the ACL in his left knee.

He required three separate surgeries before playing in an NBA game again, only to then tear the meniscus in his right knee just 24 games after returning. He also missed a large chunk of games in early 2016 with a severe ankle injury in which he tore two ligaments.

In total, Gallinari played in just 112 of a possible 246 games between the 2013-14 and 2015-16 seasons.

During the current campaign, Gallinari has played in 42 out of a possible 46 games so far and is on track to play in the most contests since his sophomore season. His ability to stay on the floor this year has allowed him to become one of the most consistent and reliable scores in the league.

When discussing anything to do with the Nuggets this year, it’s important to separate their season into two sections; before Nikola Jokic was inserted into the starting lineup and afterward.

This move came on Dec. 15, when the Nuggets were 9-16 and flirting dangerously close to the notion of another wasted season.

The team was ranked 18th in the league offensively and had a net rating of minus-4.7. Since the lineup change, the Nuggets have ranked 1st in offensive rating at 115.3, have increased their net rating to plus-2.4 and are second in the league in assists behind only the Golden State Warriors.

While every Nuggets’ player has benefited from the change, it has been veterans such as Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari that have reaped the most rewards.

With the ball now working from the inside out, Gallinari has been able to find himself more open space than ever before. Nikola Jokic is such an incredible distributer, it has encouraged teammates to cut hard and move when he has the ball in the post.

While Gallinari has offered his fair share of cutting options to Jokic, it’s on the perimeter where he is being his most deadly. As players have been cutting, and with all eyes on Jokic, many opposition teams have been failing to remember that Gallinari is lurking alone at the three-point line.

This has resulted in many open looks off of direct passes out of the post as well as quick swings to the weak side that have the defense scrambling and end with a wide open three-point attempt for Gallinari.

The big difference here is that in previous years, Gallinari has been forced to go one-on-one against his defender and create his own shot.

Now however, Gallinari is able to simply catch-and-shoot, which is the type of player he was expected to be when he was drafted by the Knicks all those years ago.

That’s not to say he hasn’t been attacking the rim, though. Gallinari has been aggressive in driving to the rim when the defense has been scrambling to get out to him on the perimeter. He is currently averaging 6.0 free throw attempts per game and is shooting 88 percent from the stripe.

Since arriving in Denver as the main component of the Carmelo Anthony mega-deal in 2011, Gallinari has been expected to be the go-to-guy on offense. And while he did see some individual success in this role, it was never best suited for him.

With Nikola Jokic now running this high-powered  Nuggets offense, Gallinari looks more comfortable on an NBA floor now than ever before. He is now a consistent and efficient offensive weapon that is ever so quietly, tearing NBA teams apart.

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