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I remember having a conversation with a fellow die-hard Knicks fan on the eve of the New York Knicks’ trade of all its young talent for NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony. The gist of what as a brief exchange as this:
“One day, Danilo Gallinari will be an All-Star. He’s starting to get to the basket on command, can already hit the three, and is money from the free-throw line,” my buddy noted.
“Then why are we trading him, a good point guard (Raymond Felton), and a quality 6th man (Wilson Chandler) for Anthony again?” I asked.
“Because Anthony can win you a playoff series in the 4th quarter, and we want to win a championship,” he snapped back.
“Oh,” I responded.
Of course, before you win that playoff series in the 4th quarter, a team has to put itself in the position to do so. Anyone who has watched the Knicks this season will tell you that just making the playoffs will be a relief to Knicks fans. But win a playoff series this year? Against whom? Even more troubling, my buddy’s argument ignored another possibility: why couldn’t Danillo Gallinari be a better player than Anthony and win a playoff series?
Here is what Gallo has brought to the Colorado hardwood, a couple of thousand miles away from MSG: a 23-year-old, 6’11” third year player who is scoring 17 points on 11 shots. Gallo’s averaging 20 a game over the last ten. He’s shooting 47% from the floor and getting to the free throw line six times a game. His free-throw percentage is in Larry Bird territory: 90%. Also, Gallo likes to play defense – this is the guy who told Mike D’Antoni that he wanted to guard the toughest player on the floor on the nightly basis. Not only does Gallo play D, but he’s good at it: he’s averaging close to two steals a game this year.
Watching this kid play is a beautiful thing. He’s a small-forward with a lightning-quick first step who can score off contact in the paint, but can also lurk about the wings and shoot from the 3 (a career 37% shooter). How has it been to watch Carmelo this year? Painful. Twenty shots a game for 24 points at 40% FG a game, lots of ball hogging, not nearly enough assertiveness in the paint, and unlike the 23-year-old Gallo, not a shred of upside left.
Basically, Gallo is blossoming into a complete All-Star and invaluable piece to a championship squad. And you gotta ask yourself, with a guy with that size, range, and competiveness (once again, go back to those two steals a game), why can’t he eventually become a beast in the 4th quarter? And, here is an even more sobering question for Knicks fans: if you were offered Carmelo Anthony for Danillo Gallinari in a straight up trade, all financial considerations aside, would you even consider it? Would you be polite, or would you laugh at the GM on the other end of the phone?