The Denver Nuggets will miss Danilo Gallinari, but their season is far from over without him.
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.
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):
Even with Gallo out, the deep Nuggets will be a tough playoff out. Expect Wilson Chandler to step up.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) April 5, 2013
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.
How far will the Nuggets go in the playoffs?
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.