Roundup: Gallinari Dominates

Roundup: Gallinari Dominates
Jan 29, 2008, 03:40 pm
Player of the Week: Danilo Gallinari

It’s becoming increasingly usual to see Danilo Gallinari producing almost at will regardless of who he goes up against. His skill repertoire, knowledge of the game and physical gifts propose a devastating equation that hardly anybody can consistently contest. Just consider that he’s living in the 20+ point mark for the last five games now, combining both the Euroleague and the Italian Lega. The run includes last week’s defeat against the Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv, where Gallinari carried his team’s offensive load with 27 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals, and the comfortable victory over Scavolini Spar Pesaro, that only required him to spend 26 minutes on court, but was still enough to come up with 20 points and 6 rebounds.

We could watch his Euroleague outing against Maccabi, a fantastic offensive show for him. He was the clear-cut go-to guy for his team, the one responsible for keeping them alive for much of the game, but unfortunately he didn’t emerge as clutch as he often does. Anyway, again his superb slashing ability was responsible of much of the damage he caused on his opponents, both in the form of layups/dunks and forced fouls that sent him to the stripe multiple times.

2862[c]Photo: A.J.Milano[/c]

However, other stuff deserves attention too. Gallinari is a well-known solid shooter. Indeed he made a living off his perimeter stroke during his first year of serious veteran competition (in the Italian second division). In this game, it was interesting to see him creating his own shot in a pure face-up one-on-one setting, using a fake and a dribble to release a successful long-range bomb, but also from the low post with a turnaround jumper, cashing in off his size. He can be pretty quick displaying his mechanics, and he shows a great sense of timing to execute every move while always evaluating his match-up’s reaction. Indeed, he often makes opponents bite on his fakes, forcing many fouls in the process or just paving his way to the basket. That’s logically helped become the dual-threat that he is his with shooting and slashing abilities.

His body control also chimes in there. It’s funny, because at first sight you might get the feeling that his big body might somehow escape his control. But the reality couldn’t be further, as his body perfectly follows his orders. For example, 6-10 guys (his likely size in shoes) running at full speed in transition tend to bump into opponents that step in their way to the basket, but Danilo has no trouble slashing by them, being able to easily change directions on the run. He actually delivered a spectacular coast-to-coast play that included a behind-the-back direction change he executed with his left hand between two opponents at almost full speed. If not the quickest and most reactive guy around, he is pretty fast when he starts moving, which looks obvious when he plays transition ball. His incredibly long strides help a great deal here as well. Just to emphasize that point, he got to the free throw line an astounding 17 times against Teramo last week.

Every game is a door open to amazement. He’s so skilled and fundamentally sound that remarkable plays are bound to happen on a regular basis.

A Look at…


An Englishman in Spain, Daniel Clark has been with Estudiantes for several years now. This season he was meant to make the first team in the ACB, which he did, but a series of bad results that have put this historic team in danger of being relegated to the second division required a few new signings. With the five Spanish players quota that teams are forced to meet, and considering that he wasn’t getting that much action, the skilled but still inexperienced Clark was the perfect candidate to leave. Loaned to Leche Rio Breogan in the LEB Oro (Spanish second division), he now finds himself in an excellent situation to gain maturity in a competitive setting. Breogan is one of the strongest teams in the league, and its sole goal is to win the promotion back to the ACB.

This past weekend the Copa del Príncipe was held, a final-four tournament featuring the four top ranked teams midway through the LEB Oro’s regular season-- a great opportunity for us to look at Clark. A guy capable of some pretty impressive offensive outbursts, the semifinal was a good example. He had 17 points in the first half, 12 of them in a very short time span. He showed great confidence in his abilities by knocking down consecutive three-pointers to close his run: the first one, receiving the ball a foot inside the arc, forcing him to take one dribble backwards to step outside and fire. The second one came after a pick-and-pop play. Just immediately before those shots, he had attempted another three-pointer that he missed, but followed the rebound and went up for a pretty nasty dunk. It was a bit of a surprise, because the Englishman is not particularly known for his aggressiveness.

2860[c]Photo: FEB[/c]

Clark is a fairly skilled and rather fundamentally sound player who seems to understand the game pretty well. He mostly lives off his shooting touch and the variety of attempts he can make, from a very short and one-handed shot, to the long-range bombs. Back to the semifinal, he showcased the extent of his range, connecting on three-pointers, an automatic mid-range jumper that he took pretty quickly, a fade-away turnaround jumper he took off the low block, and also a right-handed jump-hook. Estudiantes has been working on his low post game for a few years now, and although he still needs to significantly improve his footwork, along with his ability to finish with his left hand and his strength to operate more comfortably there, it’s already paying some dividends. Indeed, he shouldn’t have much trouble to become a productive post player as long as he’s willing to mix it up inside--and it looks like he is.

At this point, he’s a bit of a combo big man: Clark excels with some power forward skills, particularly anything related to shooting the ball, but his athleticism is more of a center’s. He looks visibly more comfortable playing on the perimeter, even if he rarely attacks his opponents off the dribble (he’s not that quick to become a consistent factor in this department anyway). But beyond his shooting touch, he moves pretty well around the arc and emerges as a pretty solid passer facing the basket, as he proved with a bunch of excellent passes in the semifinal. In terms of size, he also falls between those two positions, while he shows a nice frame to work with.

In the end, he’s basically a prospect for international competitions, but a talented kid who should be able to establish himself amongst the elite of European basketball.


The super quick Chinese guard is delivering his best offensive efforts of the season these days in the CBA playoffs, officiating as a spark off the bench for Guangdong. Indeed, the former team of Yi Jianlian is just on the verge of reaching the Finals, with a perfect record in the playoffs.

“Spark.” There’s no better way of describing Chen. In his best version, he’s a game changer, a guy who ignites the game’s tempo with his quickness, outrunning every opponent while he makes his way towards the basket. In his worst version, he can be a terrible playmaker, incapable of getting anything done in the set offense. If he can’t run, he’s pretty much lost out.

The semifinal series last week precisely brought us both extremes of Chen. He looked awful in the first game, with no confidence, tentative, uncomfortable in a relatively slow-paced game. He came back strong in the second one, with 23 points, coming mostly off transition plays that were crucial to build a big lead for Guangdong.

For a small point guard like Chen –he looks shorter than the 6-2 he’s usually listed at- running is a good option to get things done, to unbalance the opposing team and find easy baskets. His phenomenal quickness and solid ball-handling skills, even pretty consistent with his left, are perfect tools to start moving, while he shows nice ability to sneak between rivals relying on his solid footwork. Even in the set offense, he usually needs to get by his match-up off the dribble to be able to operate, either looking for the basket or feeding a teammate (often with kick-out passes). If he doesn’t find a way to get rid of his opponent, he tends to over-dribble, while a pressing defense puts him in trouble when it comes to passing the ball. He’s a small guard, not strong, at all and his wingspan nothing out of this world, so he often struggles to find passing angles.


His limited physical profile also hurts his defense. First of all, his great quickness doesn’t completely translate to his lateral movement. Besides, he’s not always equally intense, not putting enough pressure on the ball, and too often allowing his opponent to think and start moving too easily. With limited length and strength to contain his attacking match-ups, Chen finds himself forced to give up his lateral efforts in order to run after them, therefore not being able to actually stop their advance.

On a positive note, when he does put some pressure on the ball, besides providing a more reliable defense for his team, he can come up with some steals, just as when he’s active attacking his opponents’ dribble on defensive rotations. These efforts just fuel his hunger for the fast-break, making his game style more effective.

Back to the offensive end, we shouldn’t forget his ability to shoot the ball. Chen can be a nicely effective shooter out to the international three-point line, particularly in catch-and-shoot fashion, if he’s open. He has off-the-dribble skills in this department, even being capable of hanging in the air and releasing the shot after reaching the apex of his jump. However, given his lack of size, he often struggles to find enough space to comfortably release his pull-up jumper.

It’s obvious that Chen is not particularly impressing us with his play as of late. The thing is, he doesn’t look improved at all when it comes to his main weaknesses, which are pretty serious. Despite enjoying some nice potential, it’s becoming increasingly questionable if he will ever be able to transcend a (likely) star role in the up-tempo and carefree Chinese CBA in order to succeed in a more demanding competition.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Novica Velickovic claimed week MVP honors in the Euroleague with his superb statistical effort in Partizan’s blow-out victory over Brose Baskets Bamberg. 17 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals were enough to get it done.

Mladen Jeremic, one of the heroes for Serbia this past summer in the U-19 World Championships, had a career-high 20 points in the loss against Ventspils, the game that put an end to FMP’s disappointing participation in the ULEB Cup.

Marko Keselj came up big right in the worse situation for his team. With Kohl 99ers declaring bankruptcy, Keselj delivered his best performance in the ULEB Cup, with 20 points and 3 rebounds to lead his team over Ovarense, while he nicely filled the bill in the German BBL too, scoring 12 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in the victory against Walter Tigers Tubingen.

Alexis Ajinca made the Who’s Not section here last week. That’s why we can’t overlook his notable reaction in the French LBN this past weekend. In only 15 minutes (playing time continues to be an issue), he managed to deliver 11 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in a one-point loss against Le Mans. Ajinca is reportedly gaining significant weight, which should pay immediate dividends in order to become more effective on the court.

Romain Duport had precisely preceded Ajinca in our Who’s Not section and has stepped up this past week too to deliver his best game of the season. 18 points and 6 rebounds was his statistical effort coming off the bench, still not enough for Le Havre to beat Gravelines.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

It’s not a surprise that Artem Zabelin hasn’t been able to crack CSKA’s rotation. He’s physically very underdeveloped physically and gets overpowered on a regular basis by the overwhelming majority of his opponents, while the Russian powerhouse is an extremely demanding squad. Still, it’s a pity that the talented youngster has only been able to spend 76 minutes on court so far this season, spread among 15 games combining the Euroleague, Russian Cup and Superleague.

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