To say that the fate of a basketball team is entirely dependent upon one player would be hyperbolic. There’s a reason that five guys from each team are on the floor and not just one. However, to say that some players don’t have a direct correlation to their team’s success would be a complete lie.
Just ask the Denver Nuggets how vital Danilo Gallinari and his scoring production is to their success.
The Nuggets were projected as many people’s sleeper in the Western Conference before the season began. However, they stumbled out of the gate and hovered around .500 for the first two months of the season. Since then, they’ve been playing at the level that many expected them to be playing from the get go.
That change in their level of play is no accident when you begin to dig into it.
In their one October game and the whole of November, Denver finished a disappointing 8-9. Over that stretch, Gallinari played in 16 of the team’s 17 games and averaged only 15.7 points per game while shooting 38.5 percent from the field and a putrid 28.1 percent on three-point attempts.
In December, the Nuggets ran through the month at a slightly better record of 9-6. Gallinari played in all 15 of those games and, like his team, also improved his play. He averaged 16.1 points per game on 42 percent shooting and 41.4 percent shooting from deep.
For January, before Friday’s game with the Washington Wizards, the Nuggets are 7-2, putting them at 24-17 overall. Not surprisingly, Gallinari is averaging 18.9 points per game on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from beyond-the-arc.
There’s an obvious pattern here. The Nuggets roster is loaded with talented young players. However, one of their biggest struggles as a whole is to consistently be able to score. That’s why Gallinari is so huge for them.
As Gallinari has righted his ship offensively this season, the Nuggets have shaped more into the team that they were expected to be coming into this season. That’s because the forward is the heartbeat of their offense. When he’s able to score effectively, it doesn’t put as much added stress on the rest of this Denver team to score beyond their logical capabilities.
The Nuggets do a lot of things that make them successful. They’re well-coached. They rebound well. They have great chemistry. But if they want to be the sleeper-team that a lot of people thought they would be, Gallinari has to continue to be successful offensively. Subsequently, their fates are intertwined.