The Boston Celtics jumped into the free-agent fray Friday by reportedly agreeing to terms with forward Danilo Gallinari, who plans to sign a two-year deal at the full value of the taxpayer midlevel after he clears waivers.
UPDATE (Sunday, July 10): Gallinari has agreed to a two-year, $13.3 million fully-guaranteed deal with the Celtics that includes a player option for the second year, his agent confirmed to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Celtics will add a soon-to-be 34-year-old sharpshooter who brings size and shooting to an inconsistent and undersized bench. But the lingering question is whether Gallinari can hold up defensively for a team that’s identity is on that end of the floor.
The Hawks traded Gallinari to the Spurs earlier this week in the Dejounte Murray blockbuster and San Antonio moved quick to facilitate a buyout. The Celtics, after missing out on some players in and above the taxpayer midlevel, paid a steep price to add the veteran while winning a tug of war with the Chicago Bulls.
Gallinari reportedly will have a second year player option, which means this could be a short-term rental. That’s probably fine with the Celtics, who still have to come up with an Al Horford succession plan further down the road.
For now, Gallinari can help bring down minutes for Horford and the rest of Boston’s core after that group endured heavy workloads during the team’s Finals run.
But how does Gallinari fit in here?
The Gallinari good
The 6-foot-10 Gallinari is a flamethrowing power forward who has shot 38.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc over a 13-year NBA career. That mark jumps to 40.8 percent since 2019. Gallinari's size lets him shoot over smaller defenders, and the Celtics are more than familiar with his ability to get hot …
Gallinari doesn’t wander too far outside his role. He shot 45 percent on corner threes a year ago (but on only 40 total attempts). His 37 percent on non-corner threes was down from 42.3 percent over the past three seasons, but it’s fair to assume he’d get a lot of quality looks playing on a Celtics team helmed by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Gallinari takes care of the ball and can keep it moving to other shooters. He’s a solid free-throw shooter when he gets there. He can help on the glass. The Hawks’ offensive rating was a blistering 118.4 with Gallinari on the floor last season.
The Gallinari bad
Never more than an average defender and slipping with age, Gallinari immediately would be Boston’s worst defender, though his size negates some of that concern. Opponents shot 48.8 percent against him last season, which was 2.3 percent above expected output.
Playing for the defense-averse Hawks didn’t help Gallinari’s numbers but most notable was opponents shooting 63.6 percent inside of 10 feet (or 4.6 percent above expected) against Gallinari. He held his own better in isolation play than you might guess and wasn’t a liability defending in the pick and roll.
If Gallinari isn’t knocking down shots though, it’s hard to keep him on the floor. Alas, beggars can’t be choosers, and the Celtics might just need more serviceable frontcourt bodies to drive down the minute totals, especially behind 36-year-old Al Horford.
The bottom line
Gallinari provides a more consistent bench scoring presence, which could have been useful in the NBA Finals. He provides a dash of veteran experience to a young bench.
As much as we may quibble with a heightened price tag, he was scheduled to earn $21.5 million this season before his buyout and is still an impact player at his age.
The biggest question will be whether he can hold up in a playoff rotation. The Celtics routinely switched throughout the 2022 playoffs and that left Al Horford sometimes covering Steph Curry. Can you get away with that with Gallinari?
If nothing else, he can help the team navigate the regular season and lighten the stress on the core. Having another consistent 3-point weapon could be huge for this team, especially if the younger players hit a wall like they did in the Finals.