The Nuggets received some crushing news today when an MRI revealed that, as feared, Danilo Gallinari suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during last night's win against the Mavs, knocking him out for the season. The team's press release on its website doesn't indicate whether Gallinari will be ready for training camp in the fall, but the Nuggets probably aren't too concerned with next season just yet, with this year's playoffs set to start in two weeks.
Gallinari, who's on Denver's books for more than $32.5MM through 2016, is the team's second leading scorer this season, averaging 16.2 points per game, just slightly less than the 16.7 PPG Ty Lawson produces. There's no denying the 24-year-old Gallinari is a key cog for a Nuggets team currently in third place in the Western Conference. Still, there's reason to believe Denver, with all its depth, will do just fine without him.
Soon-to-be free agent Corey Brewer seems the most logical candidate to inherit Gallinari's minutes. A couple weeks ago, Nuggets coach George Karl told Sam Amick of USA Today that he wanted to give Brewer more time at the end of games, but was hesitant to do so because of the money the team owes to Gallinari and Andre Iguodala.
"I have no problem finishing any way I think I can win," Karl said. "Sometimes that ruffles the feathers a little bit of my players. But Corey Brewer is the guy who I think has played well enough to finish a lot of games. I don't do it all the time, and when I don't do it I think it's unfair to Corey, because even though Iguodala and Gallo are the high-paid dudes, sometimes Corey is the better basketball player. It's not right that we always give it to the guy who gets paid the most money. There should not be an entitlement that because you get paid the most money, that you should finish every game. But if you don't do it, then the agents are going to call and the players are going to mope and so you negotiate that. It's a compromise as a coach."
While the Heat were running off their 27-game winning streak, the Nuggets had a lengthy winning streak of their own that lasted 15 games. Gallinari played in 13 of them, but his performance was subpar. He averaged just 12.7 PPG, and his field-goal shooting (37.8%) was well below his season mark of 41.8%. Gallinari is renowned as a three-point sharpshooter, but his 37.3% accuracy from behind the arc this year is less than the 40.2% displayed by Wilson Chandler, another candidate to see increased minutes with Gallinari out.
There were questions about whether Denver's up-tempo attack would hold up in the playoffs even before the Gallinari injury, and the doubts are no less apparent today. Still, it's worth wondering if the Nuggets' chances of winning the title are really any worse off than they were yesterday. Let us know your thoughts with either a vote, a comment, or both.