Celtics Expected to ‘Zero In’ on This Longtime Free-Agent Target

Free agent Danilo Gallinari, against the Boston Celtics in 2016

Getty Free agent Danilo Gallinari, against the Boston Celtics in 2016

When it comes to NBA free agency, there is a name lingering that should be familiar to fans of the Celtics: Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari, who will officially be on the market whenever the league allows free agency to begin.

The Celtics have had interest in Gallinari for years, most significantly in the winter of 2015, when Gallinari was in Denver and the Nuggets were shopping him. At 6-foot-10, with a sweet perimeter shooting stroke, Gallinari is the kind of floor-stretching big man Celtics president Danny Ainge has long been interested in bringing to Boston.

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The Celtics could be after him again. “He is someone I would expect Boston to zero in on, a veteran guy who can put them over the top,” one league executive told Heavy.com.

The Celtics discussed piecing together a package for him five years ago.

They were reported to be “monitoring” Gallinari last season with the Thunder, too.

Now, it is possible that Gallinari could be had on the cheap. The Celtics, pinned against the luxury tax, can’t afford to pay Gallinari market value but he made clear in an interview this week that he would be willing to take less money for a chance to win. He is prioritizing playing for a contender over a payday.

“At this time, yes,” he said, according to Sportando. “I’m not 20 anymore.”

The Celtics have been in the Eastern Conference finals in three of the last four years. They also offer Gallinari a good opportunity, with three talented, basket-attacking ballhandlers in Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Gallinari’s shooting ability would create ample space for those players and he would get plenty of open looks in an offense with those players.

Gallinari Played in NBA Bubble Despite Impending Free Agency

Gallinari won some respect around the league when he agreed to go to Orlando and play for the Thunder during the NBA restart. As one of the most prominent free-agents on the market, he had plenty of reason to sit out and not risk putting himself in harm’s way.

Instead, he went to the NBA bubble and helped the Thunder push the Rockets to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. He struggled with his shot, only making 32.4% of his 3s, but his presence was valuable.

He said there was no doubt he would go to Orlando to finish off Oklahoma City’s season.

“Not in my mind or my agent’s mind,” Gallinari said on a conference call. “The main reason is because we are fighting for something, and I think that what we are fighting for and what we play for is more important than the free agency that I’m going to approach.”

In addition to the Celtics, Gallinari is expected to get interest from the Heat and Lakers, the two NBA finalists.

Gallinari’s Injury History a Concern for Celtics, Others

Gallinari is 32 years old, which gives some around the league pause about how whether he is worthy of a sizable long-term contract. There is also a question about durability. Gallinari suffered an ACL injury in 2013 that kept him out for a full year and has had a litany of injuries even before—and since—he hurt his knee.

Even if you remove the season in which his knee was hurt, Gallinari missed 183 games in 11 years, an average of 16.6 games per season. He missed 10 this season in OKC, 14 two years ago with the Clippers and 61 three years ago when he suffered injuries to his hand and rear end. Any team that brings in Gallinari then, will do so at its own peril—it is unlikely he will be healthy for the duration.

But when he is on the floor, Gallinari is very useful, a model European stretch-4. He is a career 38.0% shooter from the 3-point arc and has shot 41.8% on 3s in the last two seasons. He averaged 18.7 points with the Thunder last season.

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