Celtics player spotlight: Can Danilo Gallinari help put C's over the top?

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Celtics player spotlight: How Danilo Gallinari can be X-factor for C's originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

If Celtics fans want a sense for how Danilo Gallinari can impact winning, they need only re-watch Boston's game against the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 24, 2021.

Gallinari absolutely torched the Celtics that night, hitting 10 of 12 3-pointers to finish with a game-high 38 points in Atlanta's double-digit victory.

While that game was an anomaly, it's an extreme example of what Gallinari can bring to the Celtics in the form of a floor-spacing, 6-foot-10 sharpshooter. ("Bad scouting report," Gallinari quipped to Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens about his 3-point outburst against Boston.)

Offseason spotlights: Jayson Tatum | Al Horford | Jaylen Brown | Robert Williams | Marcus Smart | Malcolm Brogdon | Derrick White | Payton Pritchard

But where exactly does Gallinari fit in a deep, talented Celtics rotation, and can he help Boston get over the hump? We continue our Celtics player spotlight series by highlighting what Gallinari did in Atlanta last season and how he can maximize his impact with his new team.

Gallinari's 2021-22 stats (with Hawks)

  • Regular season: 11.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 43.4 percent FG, 38.1 percent 3PT (66 games)

  • Postseason: 10.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 apg, 40.0 percent FG, 26.7 percent 3PT (five games)

Gallinari's contract situation

Gallinari signed a two-year, $13.3 million contract with the Celtics on July 12. He'll make $6.5 million this season and $6.8 million next season if he picks up his player option for 2023-24.

What role will Gallinari play on the 2022-23 Celtics?

The Celtics lacked a reliable veteran scorer off the bench last season. They acquired two this offseason in Gallinari and Malcolm Brogdon. Gallinari's versatility is an asset, as he can spell Jayson Tatum on the wing, Al Horford at the four or Robert Williams at center in small-ball lineups.

Gallinari isn't an elite defender, but the Celtics' team defense should be strong enough to hide his limitations. If head coach Ime Udoka sees his offense getting stagnant, he can turn to Gallinari as an outside shooting threat who can space the floor for Boston's creators -- especially when the C's go "small."

Celtics Talk: Meet the new guys: Exclusive interviews with Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari (and Brad Stevens) | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"I think we're better set up to play smaller than we were, just because of the size of [Brogdon and Gallinari] and we've got a lot of different options there," Stevens told reporters last month.

As the Celtics' second-oldest player behind Horford (36), the 33-year-old Gallinari also can provide valuable leadership for a team that looked a little too green against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Gallinari's season will be a success if ...

... He flirts with 15 points per game and stays healthy for a playoff run.

The Celtics don't need Gallinari to log 30 minutes per night or carry a significant load on offense. But they do need him to bring a scoring spark to a Celtics team that ranked 26th in the NBA in bench scoring during the regular season and 14th among 16 playoff teams.

The 14-year veteran is certainly capable of providing that spark, averaging 15.1 points over 728 career games. He's also played more than 70 games in a season just twice in his lengthy NBA career, though, so the C's should monitor his minutes to make sure he's well-rested for a deep postseason run.

Biggest obstacle to Gallinari's success

Defensive shortcomings.

Gallinari isn't a horrible defender thanks to his 6-foot-10 build. But he'll usually be the worst defender on the floor for Boston, and teams will look to exploit the weak link in an otherwise rock-solid defense by targeting him in pick-and-rolls.

If Gallinari is knocking down outside shots, the Celtics can live with his limitations on the other end. But if they find themselves in a playoff game where his shot isn't falling and a player like Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is repeatedly scoring on him, it will be hard to keep him on the floor.

Projected stats and prediction for Gallinari's 2022-23 season

Projected stats: 12.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 44.0 percent FG, 39.5 percent 3PT

Gallinari should see a good amount of quality open looks when he's on the floor with Tatum and/or Brown, so we'll predict a slight bump in his scoring and shooting averages. He immediately makes the Celtics better offensively and gives teams a serious problem to deal with on Boston's second unit.

The biggest question is whether Gallinari can hold up in the postseason, where teams will look to expose him on the defensive end. But if the Italy native (and childhood Celtics fan) has some well-timed 3-point explosions in him, it will go a long way toward Boston raising Banner 18.