Danilo Gallinari Injury: Nuggets Have Depth to Survive Without Key SF

Tim KeeneyContributor IApril 5, 2013

DENVER, CO - APRIL 04:  Danilo Gallinari #8 of the Denver Nuggets grimaces as he injures his left knee and was forced to leave the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the Pepsi Center on April 4, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Mavericks 95-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets will miss Danilo Gallinari, but their season is far from over without him. 

It was confirmed on Friday that Gallo, who went down with a knee injury against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, indeed suffered a torn ACL as was initially believed (via NBA.com):

An MRI exam today revealed that Denver Nuggets F Danilo Gallinari suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee during Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks.

The MRI showed no signs of other ligament or meniscus damage. He will miss the remainder of the 2012-13 season.

But as Gloria Gaynor would say, the Nuggets will survive. 

The 24-year-old's worth can't be overstated. In 71 games this season, he averaged a career-high 16.2 points to go with 5.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.9 steals. Knocking down 1.9 threes per game at a 37.3 percent clip, he also established himself as Denver's most dangerous threat from the outside. 

Moreover, according to 82games.com, the Nuggets were 8.9 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court. His simple rating of 4.0 ranked second on the team behind Andre Iguodala. 

But let's not overreact here. This is Danilo Gallinari we're talking about, an inefficient scorer—41.8 percent from the field—and mediocre defender—defensive rating of 107, just 11th best on the team

While he was in the middle of a very nice season, he is far from irreplaceable. 

Especially on this Nuggets team, where depth at the small forward position is abundant. 

The two players likely to soak up Gallinari's minutes are Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler, and in this case, their polarizing qualities will help fill the vacancy left by Gallinari.  

Brewer is a classic role player. His numbers don't jump out at you and he can be inconsistent on the offensive end, but he is an effective, hard-nosed, extremely athletic defender who leads the Nuggets in steal percentage, can guard multiple positions and consistently brings high energy. 

Then you have Chandler, who is now arguably Denver's most crucial player (via Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears):

Chandler, on the other hand, is a 6'8", 220-pounder with length and athleticism who moves between the 3 and 4. On a per-36 minute basis, he racks up more rebounds and steals than Gallinari, all the while serving as a quietly efficient three-point threat. In just 24 minutes per game, the 25-year-old is averaging one three-pointer at a career-high 40.2 percent mark. 

A major cause for concern with Gallinari's injury is the loss of a shooter. While that's a legitimate worry with the Nuggets ranking 25th in the NBA in three-point percentage, Chandler can help ease that pain.

He can't create like Gallinari and he isn't as good of a shooter, but as long as Ty Lawson returns as the electric penetrator, creator and distributor that he is, Chandler will serve as a dangerous catch-and-shoot option to help keep defenses honest. 

Throw in rookie Evan Fournier, who is averaging 13.3 points, 1.7 steals and 20.4 minutes per game in his last three contests, for depth, and although the Nuggets don't have a replacement as talented as Gallinari, they have all of the necessary pieces combined to fill his void. 

They just need to spend the next two weeks learning how to make those pieces fit.