The Celtics entered the NBA free agency period hoping to add some size and shooting to their mix, especially a big guy who can knock down 3-pointers. They are closing in on a veteran who could do just that—former Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari, who has, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, made joining the Celtics, “his preference.”
There are still some obstacles to clear for a move to sign Gallinari, who was traded from Atlanta to the Spurs this week as salary ballast in the Dejounte Murray trade. San Antonio and Gallinari must complete a contract buyout, and Gallinari then has to clear waivers.
The Celtics had been in competition with the Chicago Bulls for Gallinari’s services, and had some significant disadvantages in their pursuit. Gallinari had played for the Nuggets back when Arturas Karnisovas, now the Bulls’ team president, was Denver’s assistant general manager. Gallinari also played for Bulls coach Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City in 2019-20.
Additionally, the Celtics are limited in their offer to Gallinari by the taxpayer midlevel exception, worth $6.5 million. Chicago had the full midlevel exception of $10.5 million available, and used about $3.2 million of it to sign backup center Andre Drummond. That left Chicago with about $7.3 million to offer Gallinari.
Gallinari Wants to Win Now
Still, the Celtics have one thing on their side that appears attractive to Gallinari: a chance to win a championship, having come off a run to the NBA Finals this past spring. Winning appears to trump money for him at this point, and he is just coming off a three-year contract worth $61 million, which he signed as part of a sign-and-trade with the Hawks in 2020.
Gallinari turns 34 this summer and just wrapped up his 14th NBA season. He averaged 25.3 minutes per game in 66 games, notching 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds. The scoring output was the worst since his rookie year, but playing for a Hawks team that was led by high-scoring point guard Trae Young, Gallinari had willingly accepted a lesser scoring role in Atlanta.
Gallinari made 38.1% of his 3s last season while playing for Atlanta and has made 38.2% in his career, and last year was actually a bit of an outlier for him, though he was still very accurate—over his last four seasons altogether, Gallinari has been among the league’s steadiest 3-point shooters, making 40.8% during that span.
The question for the Celtics, should they complete a deal with Gallinari, is whether coach Ime Udoka will put Gallinari on the floor. There is no doubt that Gallinari can help the team’s offense but he is a liability on defense, and Udoka has shown a reluctance to play one-way contributors. During the playoffs, Udoka frequently went with a seven-man rotation because he did not necessarily trust his bench.
Thomas Bryant Also in Play
The Celtics are also looking to add a big man to the bench rotation and have reportedly been pursuing Washington center Thomas Bryant, though they have competition from the Lakers, among other teams.
Bryant played for the Wizards last season but was unable to get much of a role with the team as he came back from an ACL tear the previous season.
Bryant could be a strong value play, because his worth is obviously diminished by his subpar results from last season, when he averaged 7.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 16.3 minutes. He is likely to sign a veteran minimum contract, but is expected to return to form as the knee gets better and he gets a more consistent role.