The game itself was conducted slightly more seriously than your typical all-star game. Things were fairly close for the first 25 minutes or so, as unselfish and extremely efficient play by Rimantas Kaukenas and Harold Jamison kept the legion of foreigners in the game. Eventually their lack of chemistry and poor shot selection did them in, and the Italians dazzled the sold out and extremely enthusiastic crowd of 4,000 behind a fantastic team effort that yielded spectacular results.
Danilo Gallinari got the start despite his status as a rookie in the top Italian league, and did not look out of place for a moment, scoring 11 points in 18 minutes on 5/6 shooting and pulling down 8 rebounds. He also won the 3-point contest by a wide margin. Gallinari might not have been the most athletic player on the floor (Slam Dunk champion Paul McPherson gets the nod here), but he certainly used his athleticism better than anyone else on the court, getting up off the floor on a number of occasions for crowd pleasing alley-oop jams and put-back dunks off offensive rebounds.
What makes Gallinari unique is just how versatile he is. Standing 6-9, he is capable of playing virtually any position on the floor. Extremely strong and physical for his age, with great proportions, he uses his excellent frame to body players up on the perimeter and around the hoop, and has no problem going right into traffic to come up with rebounds. Although he wont out-quick or just leap over most players to come away with a rebound, he is highly instinctive in the way he positions himself and anticipates, often tipping loose balls to himself or to a teammate to ignite the fast break. If the outlet pass isnt there, Gallinari shocks with the way he can put the ball on the floor and handle it comfortably with either hand, surveying the floor accurately and weaving in and out of traffic smoothly the way youd expect a point guard to.
If the defense lapses for even a second, hell show absolutely no hesitation to pull up off the dribble sharply and smoothly the way a true shooting guard would, maybe even with a slight fadeaway and completing the entire sequence with highly polished and picture perfect form. The same impression is received when watching him spot up from the 3-point line after being rewarded for his excellent off the ball movement. Right now he might not be super consistent with his percentages in the Italian league (13/38 in 12 games or 34%), but from the mechanics and touch he shows and the way he absolutely destroyed the competition in the 3-point contest, it cant be too long until he develops into a capable, if not lethal, 3-point shooter.
When asked to create his own shot from the perimeter, Gallinari doesnt outright explode past opponents, but rather uses his mind and terrific skill-set to maneuver his way to the basket, using strong head fakes, terrific ball-handling ability and plenty of craft to outsmart his defender and find space to operate. Once he gets in the lane, his strong body and gritty determination allow him to take contact from opponents and still finish strong. All these characteristics help him become a solid slashing threat at a very high European level from what we saw both here as well as on tape, but its not quite clear how effective hell be in this area once he reaches the next leveleither the Euroleague or NBA.
What is clear is that Gallinari does not force the issue. He is incredibly poised and mature for someone this young, being highly unselfish and more than willing to play within the flow of the offense and defer to his more veteran teammates when need be. Hes a terrific passer who has indeed been hailed as a bit of a point forward, ala Dejan Bodiroga, and from what weve seen there isnt any reason to dispute that.
A player he really reminds of at the same age (since I personally never saw Bodiroga at age 18) is Christian Drejer, now a starter with the top team in Italy, VidiVici Bologna. Unlike Drejer, known for his passive play and lack of killer instinct which has prevented him from elevating his game beyond that of a role-player, Gallinari has intangibles that cannot be taught, including a huge heart, plenty of fight and the type of confidence that leads you to believe that he will not settle for becoming anything less than a star.
While offensively he picks his spots and only at times will look to create offensive opportunities for himself and others, defensively is where his true fighting character really comes out. Gallinari isnt the quickest guy in the world, but hes got the fundamentals down to a science, and hell never allow himself to be outhustled. He moves his feet very well on the perimeter to stay in front of his man and can be really bothersome with his pesky aggressiveness. He understands angles and is not afraid to stick his nose into take a charge when the opportunity presents itself. When asked to switch onto a post player and throw his weight around, he doesnt seem to shy away even one bit, dishing out contact just as easily as he takes it, and as noted having no problem to go after the glass and fight for a rebound, particularly on the offensive end.
What kind of weaknesses can we expect in such a complete player at this phase in his career? The main one would be his athleticism, or rather lack thereof. Gallinari lacks great quickness and explosiveness, although as noted he does take full advantage of what he does have at the moment.
He is off to a great start in his rookie season playing for one of the best teams (Armani Jeans Milan) in arguably the 2nd best domestic league in Europeaveraging 9.3 points per game in 24 minutes on 51% shooting from the fieldbut hell have to continue to produce if a spot in the top half of the first round is what hes after. Hes not the type of player who can simply expect to be drafted in the lottery based off his unlimited upside, although at age 18 hes hardly a finished product at the moment. From what Gallinari himself told us not too long ago, he isnt in a huge rush to leave for the NBA and will most likely not declare for the draft this year. If he decides to leave in 2008as we have him projected on our current draft boardhe does not anticipate his team Armani Milan standing in his way. Another season and a half playing at a very high levelpotentially the Euroleague next year if his team keeps it upwill benefit him greatly.