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Why the Pistons need Danilo Gallinari

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Denver Nuggets Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons have been rudderless lately. Some nights it’s the defense, some nights it’s the offense. Some nights it’s the starters, some nights it’s the bench. Whatever the reason for the malaise, the Pistons are in major danger of missing the playoffs, an unacceptable regression for a team this young and talented.

The Pistons need a shakeup, but they need one that still fits within the framework Stan Van Gundy has established around the Reggie Jackson-Andre Drummond pick and roll. The Pistons need roster clarity on the wing (Stanley Johnson is not a shooting guard) and a boost from the bench.

The Pistons need Danilo Gallinari and Gary Harris.

The crux of the trade is this:

Tobias Harris - Danillo Gallinari trade
Gallo Trade

Throw in a future first, and you’ve got yourself a stew going.

Gallo does two things the Pistons really need more of: he gets to the line, and he makes threes.

This year, for reasons I can’t fully comprehend or explain, the Pistons have been awful at getting to the free-throw line:

That’s not good.

That’s last in the league, in case the red arrow wasn’t clear enough. Last year they ranked sixth. If you can explain that one, give it to us in the comments, because I got nothing.

Gallo helps that. He’s got a career free throw rate of .452, is a career 85 percent shooter from the line, and is currently averaging almost seven free-throw attempts a game (after a career-high 8.5 FTA last year). If you think of the large free-throw disparity between the Pistons and the rest of the league as free points literally lying on the court, Gallo does a better job picking those up than Tobias.

Currently, the 1-5 pick and roll that makes up so much of the Pistons offense can be collapsed on because teams are willing to let Harris and Morris beat them from deep: Neither of those guys is perceived as a knockdown shooter. Tobias is willing to put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts, but defenders can help farther off him. Helping off Gallo is a more daunting proposition because he’s a knockdown shooter, and he’s also productive attacking closeouts (he doesn’t draw all those fouls by posting up).

Defensively, a swap of the two players would be kind of a wash. One of my main gripes about Tobias is the way above-average power forwards (not even your Blake Griffins and your Kevin Loves, your Serge Ibakas and Paul Millsaps) simply immolate him on defense. Gallinari... doesn’t solve that issue. I won’t even try to spin that he does, because he won’t.

Honestly though, short of Paul Millsap, it’s truly difficult to find a relatively available, above-average defensively, decent-perimeter-shooting big man, because those guys are EXTREMELY valuable. With Tobias (and despite the recent spate of losses) the Pistons remain a top-10 team defensively. If you can get better offensively with Gallinari’s deadeye perimeter shooting while giving up very little on the margins defensively, that’s good enough for me.

The second part of this trade rectifies the backup shooting guard issue that’s plagued the Pistons since Jodie Meeks had his foot injury. Gary Harris is a really good player; he’s essentially a younger, more consistent KCP who needs fewer shots to accomplish similar results. He’s a quality on-ball defender, can create for himself late in the clock, and moves REALLY well without the basketball.

Harris is also destined to be traded because his current team has consistently and inexplicably shown an interest in other shooting guards. The Nuggets drafted TWO shooting guards this offseason (Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley), expressed interest in Dwyane Wade before he signed with Chicago, and traded for Will Barton in 2015. If that doesn’t scream “We love Gary, we’re just not IN love with Gary,” then I don’t know what does.

Darrun Hilliard had a nice week-long stretch earlier this season for the Pistons, but doesn’t have the quickness necessary to create his own shot at the NBA level and hasn’t shown he can make perimeter shots other players create for him. I’m not sure he is an NBA player, which makes him expendable and the future first-round pick the real prize for Denver. If the Pistons make the playoffs, figure that pick falls around where it did last year, #18, making it an asset for the Nuggets in what appears to be a pretty stacked draft. The Pistons, however, are trying to get better now, and would rather have the actualized asset (with room for development) that is Gary Harris at this time, rather than a young player they’d have to bring up to speed to contribute.

(Stanley Johnson jerks head up, then shakes it slowly, sadly. No tears, Stanley. I still believe.)

If the Pistons and Nuggets BOTH miss the playoffs, the Pistons pick ends up in the lottery, and the Nuggets have two lottery picks. The Nuggets probably don’t NEED two lottery picks, but hey, maybe that would be enough to make Kenneth Faried someone else’s problem.

Perform this trade, and the Pistons roster looks like this:

  • Reggie/Ish/Beno
  • KCP/Gary/Bullock
  • Marcus/Stanley/Gbinje
  • Danilo/Leuer/Ellenson
  • Dre/Baynes/Boban


That’s a no-brainer 10-man rotation, with positional redundancies to safeguard against injuries. You still retain enough flexibility to slide guys up (Leuer to 5, Marcus to 4) and down (Gary to 1, Gallo to 3), as Stan is wont to do. You can play KCP and Gary at the same time and pressure the perimeter. You can play Gallo at 4 and Leuer at 5 and just start bombing away from three. You can rely on Gary to create his own shot and take some of the pressure off of Ish in bench lineups.

This is not a perfect trade. There’s definite risk with this deal for Detroit: Tobias is younger and on a longer deal (that declines!) than Gallo. Gallo has a player option after this season; he could be a half-season rental if he decides to enter free agency. Gallo is also 28, and has only played 70 games once in the last four years.

Additionally, Gary Harris is going to command Allen Crabbe money in restricted free agency in 2019. Paying two shooting guards (#PayKCP) upwards of $35 million dollars combined seems sub-optimal when neither one of them is ever going to be an All-Star.

But that’s also part of the reason I think the Nuggets would listen to this deal. They also don’t want to lose Gallo for nothing, and 2.5 years of a young asset like Tobias Harris is definitely not nothing. They can also (finally) start playing Mudiay and Murray together to see what those guys look like on the court at the same time. They can stop throwing out Jameer Nelson/Will Barton/Jamal Murray lineups (yes, they do this on a semi-regular basis, and it is maddening) and slide Harris in. They can attach the Pistons first-rounder to a Faried or Wilson Chandler trade.

An ideal trade leaves everyone thinking they got the better side. A move like this would be more risky than previous moves made by SVG and Jeff Bower, but carries a lot of upside for a team that could use it. What say you, DBB?