For all of the internal developments within the Boston Celtics roster last season, shooting was still a significant concern heading into the post-season. Sure, Grant Williams’ evolution into a true deadeye from the corners was a welcomed sight, but if he suddenly began to struggle from the field, there weren’t many other places to look.
Yes, Aaron Nesmith and Sam Hauser were on the roster, but neither of those players projected to be impactful on both ends of the floor, which meant Ime Udoka wouldn’t give them playing time unless his hand had been forced.
Luckily, that problem doesn’t look like it’s going to carry over into next season, as the acquisition of Danilo Gallinari on a two-year contract has plugged that hole. Suddenly, the Celtics have an additional shooter to pepper away at teams from the perimeter, allowing Boston to slowly chip away at defensive schemes.
Williams can’t play the full 48 minutes every night, and while he’s a legitimate threat from the corners, you don’t want to see Jaylen Brown operating in a spot-up role. So, by adding a player of Gallinari’s caliber, Boston has enhanced their rotation, ensuring there’s always a catch-and-shoot threat spacing the floor.
Of course, the 14-year veteran is more than just a catch-and-shoot threat, and that’s why his addition improves the potency of the Celtics bench. After all, this is a player who in his age-33 season, averaged over 30% shooting from every spot on the floor.
As you can see from the above shot chart, the left side of the court is certainly a weak point for the Sant’Angelo Lodigiano native, but even then, he’s self-aware enough to limit his shot attempts in those areas.
Most importantly, though, Gallinari is comfortable when attacking close-outs. The 6’10’’ forward is skilled enough to reliable put the ball on the floor and get to his spots. He’s also capable of embracing contact before going into his shooting motion, and let’s be honest, his fall-away shot is picturesque. Throughout last season, we saw Grant Williams working on his ability to drive by defenders as they closed out onto his shot, but his limited pull-up game left a lot to be desired, so one would hope that Gallinari’s presence can help him improve in that regard — the same goes for Sam Hauser, too.
Take the above play for example. As Gallinari lifts out of the corner and receives the ball, his defender instantly closes the space. Rather than deferring, or slowing down play by calling for a screen, the veteran forward puts the ball on the floor, embraces the bump, gets to his spot, and generates shooting space. Sure, there’s a moment where Gallinari loses his dribble, but he still manages to retain the rock and get his shot off, and that’s a shot that has been working for him his whole career, so it’s one we’re going to get comfortable with him taking.
Of course, when sharing the floor with Boston’s star wings, there will be times when the defense is forced to sag off Gallinari in order to contain drives or roll men elsewhere on the floor, or when he is used as the screener and can pressure the rim if he chooses to roll rather than pop. It’s at that point where the veteran addition can utilize his size and length to cause damage as a cutter/roller around the rim.
Although limited, these are the roles we can expect Gallinari to fill when coming off the Celtics bench. He’s going to be a catch-and-shoot guy who has the green light to attack close-outs, will be a screener who can both operate as a roll-man and a popper, and can pressure the rim with some well-times cuts towards the basket.
The veteran forward isn’t much of a defender at this juncture of his career, due to his limited mobility, especially in his hips. As such, we’re likely to see Udoka hide his new forward on the defensive end of the floor, and ask him to operate as a low-help man who rotates over to tag rollers to contest shots at the rim. In truth, there’s nothing wrong with being one of the weaker defenders on the Celtics roster, given that there are so many elite talents on that side of the floor already.
Another thing we probably shouldn’t expect to see much of is Gallinari playing as a center next season. During his last two years with the Atlanta Hawks, the veteran spent 30% of his minutes at the five and was largely a passenger on his team's porous defense. Sure, the former 6th overall draft pick has the size to man the middle when playing drop coverage, but his limitations on the perimeter will ensure Udoka avoids the temptation unless he’s going with a small lineup, at which point the benefits hopefully outweigh the bad.
In essence, Boston added an aging shooter who perfectly fills the shooting hole within their offense, while not sacrificing too much on the defensive end. Couple Gallinari’s skillset with his size, skill, veteran leadership, and locker room presence, and Brad Stevens got the shooter with size he’s been speaking about since entering his role in the front office.