Know The Prospect: Danilo Gallinari

Like we always do at this time... last year our long-time blog buddy Seth from Posting and Toasting and I split up the possible available draft options for the Knicks. I don't remember who got Wilson Chandler in the end, though I do remember both of us being strongly in favor of Sean Williams (who unfortunately was not available when the Knicks finally picked). This year we are once again splitting up the prospects. Who will the Knicks pick at #6?

We decided to start off by looking at the top two candidate: Seth has already done his OJ Mayo preview post, so check it out. And I'm now given you the goods on the other most-mentioned candidate, Danilo Gallinari.

Danilo "Gallo" Gallinari is a 19-year old, 6'9 208 SF from Italy (he can also play SG and/or PF). He plays for Olimpia (Armani Jeans) Milano.

Milano has a long history of success in Italy. Former NBAers like Bob McAdoo, and former Knicks Bill Bradley, Rolando Blackman, Lee Nailon, Antonio Davis and DeMarco Johnson have all played for the franchise. So the franchise does seem to have a connection with the Knicks, in that they seem to have a habit of picking up former players. Perhaps this time it will be the other way around, for once.

The leading scorer in Olimpia Milano history, and the biggest star in franchise history? The Knicks new head coach Mike D'Antoni. He led Olimpia Milano to 5 Italian League titles, 2 Euroleague titles, two Cups of Italy (one point guard, two cups), one Korac Cup, and one Intercontinental Cup. F*ck, that's a lot of cups.

It was playing for Milano where D'Antonio got his nickname - Arsene Lupin (the french version of Sherlock Holmes was a master thief in the French series of detective books). What's the Italian word for "cupboard"?

Danilo is considered the top foreign player in the draft, and one of the top small forwards available. Danilo's dad (and agent) Vittorio was an Italian basketball star, too. He played on the Italian National Team during the 80's. Oddly enough, he was more known for his supreme defensive prowess - he was a lock down defender - and dirty play (the Bruce Bowen of Italy) than any offensive skills (he rarely topped a handful of points a game). He played for many years in the leagues, including nine seasons on Milano as a teammate of... Mike D'Antoni. You get the feeling yet that D'Antoni might be familiar with Gallinari?

Danilo's nickname is "gallo", (Italian/Spanish for "rooster". Or "cock"). He's already signed a deal with Reebok. He played point guard through most of his teenage years, which is why he is credited with having good court vision for a forward.

Stats: He shot 50.6% (90-178) during the 06-07 season on two-pointers, 40.5% (53-131) on three-pointers, and hit 85.5% (161 of 188) FTs. Note that he took more FTAs than FGAs, which generally means he gets to the basket pretty well. In 07-08 he hit 52.6% (121-230) on twos, 40.0% (64-160) on threes, and 86.0 (190-221) on FTs.
He is a poor rebounder (3.8 rpg in 06-07, up to 5.9 in 07-08), but has a good handle and can pass exceptionally well for a SF. He's 6'9, but still has a few more years, so 6'10 or 6'11 isn't out of the question (SML himself went from 6'0 to 6'2 after turning 19).

Past Injuries: He had a knee strain in January 2008, and a few years back had to sit out three months with a "growth problem" that has since been fixed. He draws a lot of fouls partial because he likes to finish strong (lots of dunks), though that aggressiveness may not carry over to the NBA. Peep video of an Italian Robin Leach talking about Danilo highlights:

Big Warning: The other Italians in the NBA are Andrea Bargnani (not living up to #1 pick status) and Marco Belinelli (did not have much of an impact in GS during his rookie season, where most thought he would be an ideal fit). Danilo's ability to draw fouls, which is a key part of his Italian success, might not work for him in the NBA. He might shy away from contact, and become strictly a three-point shooter (as is the case with Bargnani a lot). He lacks the lateral quickness to be a good defender or re-bounder, though both can be improved on by sheer determination. Perhaps his dad can instill some of his work ethic on that end into his son?

I would say that he seems a bit of a project at #6 - he's only 19 years old, and needs to work on his strength, speed, and defense. He's a great shooter with height, and while that translates pretty easily in the NBA, that doesn't necessarily mean he's Dirk just yet. Bargnani, a good comparison, has taken more than two seasons without yet reaching the next level. NYC isn't about patience when it comes to guys with potential (see Phil Hughes).

On the other hand, he's certainly a solid player with upside, which is realistically the best you can do with a #6 pick. He's young enough to still grow physically, and he will get more strength. With patience, he could be a very key player in the core of this team. He's comfort level and family familiarity with Mike D'Antoni makes the Knicks the perfect team for him in the NBA. And the Knicks need an upgrade at SF as much as they need anything. If the Knicks draft him, they should make sure to make it clear to fans that Danilo, even if he starts, is three years away from reaching whatever his potential is. Which, from what I've read, is anywhere from Detler Schmephf to Peja Stojakovic to Toni Kukoc. Lazy Euro-comparisons aside (though, given his leadership and touch from all over at a young age, he is comparable to Dirk), he might best be compared to a potential Rashard Lewis.

The biggest question in determining Danilo's possible success in the NBA, besides his effort and comfort/aggression level, is his footspeed. Every video I've seen of Danilo (there are plenty on YouTube) shows him either finishing with a dunk, via alley oop or wide open lane, or it shows him hitting a wildly improbably layup/drive. The latter will not translate to the NBA, as they are too out of control and crazy to succeed. He resembles the worst of Manu Ginobili at those moments. You have to wonder if he has the right speed to resemble the best of Manu, too. The good news (for a team that drafts him) is that he creates the contact and spacing on his drives not because of his speed, but because of his above average ballhandling skills and odd angles that he shoots from. Check out this six minute clip from a Italian League game for the best overall presentation of Danilo's whole skill set, both good and bad:

And, of course, if you want the opinion of someone who knows little about basketball, but plenty about dick jokes, you can always check out Deadspin's post on this very topic.

Conclusion: If anyone knows whether Danilo Gallinari can play in the NBA, and what he can do, it's gotta be Mike D'Antoni and the Knicks. They have assigned Isiah Thomas to scout him already in Europe; D'Antoni knows his family pretty well, and I'm sure D'Antoni still has lots of connections to the Milano franchise (if not, it would be like Karl Malone not knowing anything about what's going on with the Jazz). So if the Knicks draft him at #6, then you know they feel pretty comfortable with Danilo's long term capabilities. And, if the Knicks pass up on him at #6, or trade down if he's available - well, that would be pretty telling. That would not bode well for Danilo's potential in the NBA.

Seth will be up next with another draft prospect. Also, check out this interesting post from Joey at Straight Bangin' about Chris Douglas-Roberts of Memphis.