Danilo Gallinari sent mixed signals this week on his free agency but his Hoops Hype interview stated his openness to returning to the OKC Thunder.
With the NBA Board of Governors looking to push up the season start to December, it means the NBA Draft and Free Agency will occur shortly before the season start. For the OKC Thunder and Sam Presti that means the brain trust has major decisions to make quickly regarding the team’s future direction. At the top of the list is what the Thunder should do with key 2019-20 contributors Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari.
Paul has two years remaining on his contract which means there isn’t as much urgency on making that decision since he could just as easily be traded at the deadline. Gallinari is a more pressing situation especially if Presti wants to ride the middle ground of developing the young Thunder talents while also remaining competitive. Gallo is set to enter free agency this fall and will be a highly coveted asset.
The Italian arrived as part of the Paul George trade to the Clippers and immediately made an impression on the Thunder faithful. His 2019-20 season registered game averages of 18.7 points, 1.9 assists, and 5.2 rebounds with a robust 40.1 perimeter efficiency.
Gallinari distanced himself from his injury-prone tag remaining healthy this past season and showcased his full toolbox. Although the forward isn’t a player to build a team around he’s definitely a player who can stretch the floor and fulfill the role of the third scorer on a contending squad.
Danilo Gallinari open to re-signing with OKC Thunder
This week the writing seemed to be on the wall when he hit social media with an open-ended tweet of “where to next?” The takeaway for OKC Thunder fans was he was set to move on simply by the “next” addition in the statement. Yet, we may have jumped the gun on this assessment.
The hope was always for Sam Presti to either re-sign the Italian at a reasonable salary or at worst complete a sign and trade with the forward in order to gain value back. These options appear far more possible given the Hoops Hype podcast interview between Gallinari and Michael Scotto.
The unrestricted free agent spoke glowingly of his time spent this past season in OKC, his respect for players and the front office of the Thunder. He calls Chris Paul the best point guard he’s ever played with and how as the two guys over 30 on the Thunder they began the season on the same page which was essential for the team’s success.
I honestly loved it. I love working with the younger guys and being the guy they look up to and listen to you. You work with them every day, and you see them improving. What happened with Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander), what happened with (Darius) Bazley, and all these young guys working every day, listening, and following the right path and advice, I think, is something that I’d love to keep doing, and I love to do.
As for other teams in the mix, like Paul, his former agent was Leon Rose who is now the head man for the Knicks. That association and his strong relationship with Rose could put New York in the mix for his services.
He still lives in Denver where he spent the first six seasons of his 12-year career. That may play a role in his free agency as he’d be a solid addition to the Nuggets as a potential third option behind Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
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That said, Denver may not be his best fit given the Nuggets have a developing Michael Porter Jr. to consider. The Nuggets are also keen to re-sign former OKC Thunder forward Jerami Grant who excelled in his first postseason with Denver.
Ultimately, the two major takeaways from this interview that resonated loudest were Gallinari loved his time with the Thunder and emphasized his strong working relationship with Sam Presti. Regardless of his decision, those comments would seem to keep the door wide open for the Thunder to benefit either via re-signing him or via a sign and trade.
As a veteran Gallinari knows how important it is to have a strong working relationship with a team’s front office so his comments about Presti are telling. Looking back at the trade deadline there were rumors of him leaving for the Miami Heat.
The deal never occurred because Miami wanted a commitment from him regarding re-signing this summer and wasn’t willing to offer the term Gallo wanted. That decision and his happiness with the OKC Thunder this past season could end up playing a much larger role in his free agency decision.
Check out the podcast and let us know what your takeaways were in the comments section.