Danilo Gallinari has suffered a torn left meniscus. There are different surgical options for Gallinari. One path could see him return in a shorter time period, perhaps before mid-season. Another path could put Gallinari’s entire season in jeopardy.
In the end, the location and type of tear Gallinari has, along with his personal decision, will decide just how much time he’ll miss. His recovery from whatever option Gallinari chooses, as we learned with Robert Williams last season, will also dictate how long Gallinari will be out.
But one thing is certain: Gallinari will almost certainly miss time to start the 2022-23 season. And that leaves the Boston Celtics with some decisions to make about their rotation and roster.
The Internal Options
Gallinari was set to be a key member of the Celtics rotation right from the jump. He was likely to be the primary big wing off the bench. The expectation was that Gallinari would pair with Malcolm Brogdon to give Boston the bench production they sorely lacked at times last season.
If Brad Stevens and the front office staff have determined that free agency offers no further solutions, they’ll have to look at what’s already on the roster to replace Gallinari.
More Grant Williams
Even when Gallinari was available, Grant Williams was going to play a lot. Now, Williams might be asked to play even more.
Initially, most expected Williams’ role to be as the third big behind starters Rob Williams and Al Horford. Williams will still fill that role, but he’s also likely to see his minutes step up some too alongside another backup in the frontcourt. We’ll cover who those might be in a moment.
Williams is likely to see somewhere in the range of 28-30 minutes per game while Gallinari is out. That going to be up slightly from the 25 minutes or so that Williams was expected to log each night.
More Grant Williams isn’t a bad thing. He’s a solid defender who can defend all but the biggest of centers, while also switching and holding his own against all but the very quickest of perimeter players. Williams’ improvement as a shooter, passer and overall offensive player is also key off the bench.
More Sam Hauser
If Boston wants to go with another big wing to replace Gallinari, first up will have to be Sam Hauser. Hauser has shown the ability to be a knockdown shooter, so the hope would be he’d give the Celtics similar shooting production as Gallinari. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end on offense.
Gallinari is an accomplished scorer off the dribble, and he’s also very effective at posting up smaller defenders on mismatches. In addition, even as he’s aged, Gallinari has remained adept at drawing free throws.
Hauser has shown none of those skills. He’s a very good spot-up shooter and a good at catching-and-shooting while on the move. Some of the sets Ime Udoka and staff have drawn up to get Gallinari open jumpers will work for Hauser. But the creation Gallinari provides when those are well defended doesn’t exist with Hauser.
More Luke Kornet
Luke Kornet was always likely to play at least somewhat of a role for Boston this season. He’s the only true backup center on the roster at the moment. While Grant Williams can defend most centers, he offers little in the form of rim protection. While not elite by any means, Kornet has shown a knack for blocking or altering shots around the basket. That was going to get him at least some regular season minutes.
While Gallinari is out, the Celtics can play Kornet more than was planned. Like Sam Hauser, some of the sets designed to Gallinari open jumpers can also work for Kornet. Kornet also brings an element of being able to roll to the rim that none of the other backups have.
Much like with playing Hauser more, Kornet offers little in individual offensive creation or the ability to attack mismatches. He’s a play finisher, either with a shot around the rim or a jumper, and that’s about it.
Play small more
The Celtics are set up to have a lot of lineup versatility. In addition to the players above, Derrick White can defend 1-3, while Malcolm Brogdon can also do the same. Of Boston’s reserves, only Payton Pritchard is really a one-position defender, and that’s a product of his size more than anything.
With Gallinari out, Ime Udoka may lean more on small-ball lineups. Brogdon and White were always going to play a lot as the primary backup wings, but it was likely to be alongside Gallinari as a bigger wing, with likely one big on the floor. Now, those minutes will have to step up some.
Instead of bigger lineups with Gallinari at the three, expect to see more lineups with multiple guard-sized players on the floor at once. That leaves Boston versatile enough to switch everything on defense, while having several players on the court that attack off the bounce.
This also has the silver lining of getting Pritchard on the floor more regularly. He was the player most likely to have minutes squeezed with the offseason additions. Now, there’s a path to regular playing time for the third-year point guard.
More Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown
We’ll keep this one short and sweet. Adding Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari was about adding bench production for the Celtics. But Boston also wanted to take some of the load off Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That’s where Gallinari comes in. He’s set to be the backup big wing behind the two stars. While he’s out, Ime Udoka may need to lean on Tatum and Brown to play more minutes than is ideal to open the season.
The External Options
Boston is still sitting on several open roster spots. They have some camp signings trickling in, but those deals are all fully non-guaranteed and designed for maximum flexibility. Essentially, if the Celtics need to move on to fill a spot, they can without any sort of real impact to the roster or cap/tax sheet.
If Brad Stevens and staff want to look for a non-rostered option to replace Danilo Gallinari, there are some. But be forewarned, this late in free agency, the pickings are pretty slim.
Elevate a camp signing
The first thing Boston can look at is elevating a camp signing and keeping them on the regular season roster. A couple of guys are going to make it anyway, but with Gallinari out, those chances increase.
Could Bruno Caboclo fill a spot while Boston is shorthanded? What about last year’s two-way players Brodric Thomas or Matt Ryan? Or what about Denzel Valentine?
Those players will probably be given first consideration, as they are all options the Celtics are already familiar with, and a couple are already set to join the team for camp.
Sign Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is the free agent who can most immediately replace what Boston will miss while Gallinari is out. Anthony can still score off the bounce and can still hurt mismatches on post-ups. Anthony isn’t quite as reliable as Gallinari as a shooter, but he’s not a bad one either.
Defensively, Anthony is probably on par with Gallinari. Neither is being paid to defend anyone. Both are guys the coaching staff will scheme around and help. On the plus side, Anthony remains a pretty solid defensive rebounder.
Sign Jake Layman
Jake Layman is a local kid (he attended King Phillip Regional High School in Wrentham) who has NBA experience. He’s more of a pure three, but he has enough size to occasionally play the four. Layman is athletic and has the reputation, but not the production, of a shooter. He doesn’t offer much creation ability for himself or others.
Defensively, Layman has the tools to be a better defender than he’s shown in his career. To this point, Layman hasn’t stepped up as a defender with either the Portland Trail Blazers nor Minnesota Timberwolves.
Sign Josh Jackson
Boston could bring the 2017 NBA Draft full circle and could sign Josh Jackson. Jackson was reportedly in the mix to be drafted with the pick the Celtics used to select Jayson Tatum.
Like Layman, Jackson is more of a pure three, but he doesn’t really offer the size to play up. He’s still very athletic, but Jackson has never put it all together as a scorer or defender in the NBA. While still an interesting player with the ball in his hands, Jackson seems destined to remain a “What if…” player.
Sign Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
Over the last couple of seasons, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has transitioned from more of a 2/3 player to a 3/4. He’s not really a four, but Luwawu-Cabarrot can handle the role against most backup power forwards.
Luwawu-Cabarrot is a solid defender and he’s shown signs of being a good shooter at times, if an inconsistent one. He’s also athletic enough to finish off cuts and in transition. Like the some of the others on this list, Luwawu-Cabarrot offers very little in the form of on-ball creation.
Sign Yuta Watanabe
Yuta Watanabe is the off-the-radar option. Watanabe is more of a three, but he can play some at the four. On relatively small volume, Watanabe has shown the ability to shoot. He’s also fairly athletic too.
Sign Jabari Parker
This one might be off the board, because Parker may not want to return for yet another go-around in Boston. If he’s open to the idea, the Celtics know what Parker can do. Like Carmelo Anthony, he’s a scorer and rebounder. Also, like Anthony, he’s not much of a defender.
However, Parker has been signed and waived by the Celtics a few different times already. He may not want to relive that experience, especially if there is the chance he’d be only a short-term replacement while Gallinari is out.