The Boston Celtics signed free agent Danilo Gallinari to a two-year deal worth $13.3 million, and the forward will provide the Celtics with a playmaker and 3-point shooter off the bench.
The Atlanta Hawks traded Gallinari to the San Antonio Spurs in a deal where they acquired All-Star Dejounte Murray. The Spurs and Gallinari agreed to a contract buyout so he could become a free agent.
Gallinari turns 34 in the fall, but he’s a guy who can get buckets. Gallinari is a career 38.2% shooter from 3-point range, who averaged 40% or better from deep in three out of the last four seasons. He averaged 19.8 ppg as a starter with the LA Clippers a couple of seasons ago, and once averaged 19.5 ppg with the Denver Nuggets.
Gallinari’s usage rate dipped with the Hawks over the past few seasons — 13.3 ppg two seasons ago and 11.7 ppg last season — because the entire offense runs through the shot-happy Trae Young. Gallinari had to rack up points, usually when Young was on the bench getting a breather, and he welcomes the change of pace because the Celtics are in a much better spot to win a championship.
Celtics eye 2023 title run
The Celtics were the best team in the NBA in the second half of the season after rookie head coach Ime Udoka found his sea legs and dialed in their defensive switching scheme.
During the regular season, the Celtics went 51-31, securing the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They swept the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, knocked out the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in the second round in seven games, then defeated the top-seeded Miami Heat in seven games to win the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the 2022 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Celtics in six games. The Warriors exploited the Celtics’ weaknesses and their proclivity for turnovers. At the same time, the Celtics lacked firepower off the bench, which general manager Brad Stevens addressed in the offseason by acquiring Malcolm Brogdon in a trade with the Indiana Pacers, and by signing Gallinari.
The Celtics were a couple of wins short of the NBA title, but you can also make an argument that they wouldn’t have been in the NBA Finals if their opponents weren’t hampered by injuries to key players. If the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t lose Khris Middleton to a knee injury, you can make a valid argument that the Bucks would have returned to the NBA Finals this year. The Miami Heat were all banged up as well, including injuries to Jimmy Butler (knee) and Kyle Lowry (hamstring).
The Celtics are the betting favorite at +550 odds to win the 2023 NBA Championship, according to DraftKings. The Celtics are also the favorite to win the Eastern Conference at +220 odds.
Beantown’s bench: Brogdon, Gallinari, Williams
The Celtics have a strong core with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford, but they lacked veteran role players to provide consistency off the bench. Stevens added Brogdon and wants him to embrace the Sixth Man role as a reliable ball-handler who’ll minimize turnovers. Brogdon is injury prone, which is his only knock, but he can be an impact player if he remains healthy. He’s a guy who can score 20 points a night, and the Celtics need him to inject life into their second unit.
The Celtics will need Gallinari to find open space on the perimeter and knock down treys when Tatum gets double-teamed or Brown/Smart drives and kicks the ball out. His defense is lacking, especially as he gets older, but he more than makes up for it with his shooting and playmaking ability.
The Celtics thrived when their bench contributed offense, but there were times when their shooters went cold, including the streaky Derrick White, Grant Williams, and Payton Pritchard. Stevens and Udoka will lean on Brogdon and Gallinari to find easy buckets when the long-range shooting goes cold.
Williams has steadily improved since the Celtics selected him with a late first-round pick out of Tennessee in 2019. He hasn’t put up the numbers that fans hoped for (only 7.8 ppg last season), but he knocked down 41.9% of his 3-pointers and demonstrated flashes of brilliance, including 27 points and seven 3-pointers in Game 7 against the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.