Utah Jazz signs Italian forward Simone Fontecchio

The team’s first free agent signing of the 2022 offseason is for a 26-year-old, 6-foot-8, smooth-shooting player who played last season in Spain’s Liga ACB.

Italy striker Simone Fontecchio (13) celebrates after scoring a three-pointer during the men’s basketball preliminary game against Nigeria at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Saitama, Australia. Japan. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Utah Jazz’s first dip in the 2022 free agency pool is not what many would have predicted.

According to multiple reports, the team have agreed terms with Italian striker Simone Fontecchio, who spent last season playing for Baskonia in Spain’s Liga ACB.

EuroLeague media partner Eurodevotion was first to report the news, and Fontecchio’s agent Excel Basketball’s Sam Foldfeder later confirmed to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the teams would sign a contract for two years for $6.25 million.

Fontecchio is a 26-year-old from Pescara, Abruzzo, Italy. The 6-foot-8, 209-pound small forward has been playing professional basketball since the 2012-13 season, when Virtus Bologna promoted him from the under-19 team to the senior squad.

In 2016, he joined Italian Lega Basket Serie A side Olimpia Milano and also had a stint with Vanoli Cremona. In 2019 he signed with Reggio Emilia. A year later, he went to Germany to play for Alba Berlin in the basketball Bundesliga. And in 2021 he moved to Spain, playing for Baskonia.

Last season in ACB play, Fontecchio played in 33 games and averaged 12.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He shot 46.5% from the field, 41.0% on 3s (4.7 attempts per game) and 85.1% on free throws.

In the 2021-22 EuroLeague, he played 31 games, averaging 11.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He shot 43.1% from the field, 40.2% on 3s (3.9 attempts per game) and 85.7% on free throws.

EuroHoops.net reports that Fontecchio had a three-year contract with Baskonia which contained an NBA exit clause which was due to expire this month.

Fontecchio made his senior national team debut for Italy at the 2020 Summer Olympics, appearing in four games for Italy and averaging 19.3 points per game while shooting 45.5% from 3 points.

According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Fontecchio “is considered the best international small forward available”.

After previously executing a Rudy Gobert trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro and Walker Kessler (plus first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, as well as swap pick in 2026), the Jazz currently have 14 players under contract for the 2022-23 season.

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