Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari has opted out of the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, according to The Vertical. Gallinari, an eight-year veteran, was set to earn $16.1 million next season but will instead join a free agency crop that’s absolutely loaded at forward with names such as Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward on the market.
Gallinari doesn’t have the All-Star credentials like Griffin, Hayward and Millsap but the forward has dutifully led the Nuggets in scoring the past two seasons. Gallinari has also battled numerous injuries while appearing in only 175 out of a possible 328 contests since 2013. The past injuries will be large a part of the conversation surrounding Gallinari once free agency begins and the topic will play a significant role in the heftiness of his next contract.
The Nuggets (40-42) shocked many around the league this past season, finishing one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference. What makes the Nuggets’ ascent even more impressive is how successful the young squad was despite injuries to key rotation players. Nikola Jokic (nine), Wilson Chandler (11), Gallinari (19), Kenneth Faried (21), Will Barton (22), Gary Harris (25) and Emmanuel Mudiay (27) missed a combined 134 contests this season, yet the team still nearly made the playoffs.
Gallinari figures to be an integral part of Denver’s rebuilding project moving forward and the team does have the resources available to lock him into a long term deal. The Nuggets finished this past season roughly $11 million under the salary cap and will enter the summer with up to $43 million in cap room, though draft picks and cap holds will play into that calculation.
In today’s pace and space climate, the 6-foot-10 Gallinari could be in high demand as a long range sniper. The veteran shot 39 percent from three-point range this past season and there are many teams that will be looking for help at small forward. Two that immediately stand out: the Los Angeles Clippers and the Boston Celtics.
What’s important to note, however, is the comments Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly made about Gallinari recently, as he expressed a strong desire to keep the forward in Denver.
“Gallo has been a core piece of this team for a very long time,” Connelly told the Denver Post back in April at season’s end. “We have a fantastic relationship, so we’re always very up front and honest… He’s a guy who really enjoys it here. He had a career year in a bunch of different statistical categories. He’s a guy who we know very well, and he knows us very well. I think it will be a pretty easy approach when you have that type of relationship.”
Gallinari, to his credit, has also remained consistent in his public commentary about his love for the organization.
“The relationship between me, the city and the organization is great,” Gallinari said, according to Sportando in April. “This is the reason why I would love to reach an agreement to remain in Denver. I love it here. And I would love to remain with the Nuggets.”
Connelly and Gallinari may appear to be on the same page as free agency approaches, but this will mark the first time in the forward’s career where he will be courted as an unrestricted free agent by opposing teams. Gallinari, approaching his thirties, is looking for the security of a long term deal. Connelly, on the other hand, has an emerging young core consisting of Jokic, Harris and rookie Jamal Murray that he will eventually have to pay big money in order to retain – so protecting future cap space is important.
Gallinari averaged 18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 63 contests this past season. The veteran forward shot 45 percent from the floor, 39 percent from three-point range sand 90 percent from the charity strip.
In all likelihood, he will be a highly coveted asset on the market and, considering the concerns surrounding his durability, it will be interesting to see what kind of deal he is able to fetch.
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