Fontecchio-Jazz: The Athletic explains why Utah believes in him

Simone Fontecchio to the Utah Jazz impressed everyone but the reporters at The Athletic, who explained why this marriage was made.

Translated piece here:

His path to the Jazz

Utah CEO Danny Ainge has long followed Fontecchio and even had him coaching a few years ago when he was with the Celtics.

Why did the Jazz sign him? Sources say they simply thought he was the best free agent left available. This is high praise since Fontecchio has not played an NBA game. And if the Jazz end up trading some of their veterans, or Donovan Mitchell, Fontecchio could end up playing a significant role in Will Hardy’s rotations.

In the end, it doesn’t cost the Jazz much to take a gamble on Fontecchio. They offered him a two-year contract. Just monitor his progress, see if he can adapt to the NBA game and see how much he actually fits in at this level. Eight years ago, Utah signed a potential player just over 25 years old, an all-around wing. Joe Ingles has had quite a career in the NBA.

Now, Ingles is probably a rare case, and perhaps even unique. It’s not often that a team brings in a guy who was cut in training camp by the Los Angeles Clippers. But Fontecchio doesn’t have to become one of the top 10 small wings in the league, and that’s where Ingles peaked with the Jazz. If he proves capable of getting real rotation minutes, he becomes a steal for the price at which Utah signed him.

Why sign him now?

There is a chance the Jazz will give a lot of room to young guys, trade most of their veterans by the February trade deadline, and try to lose as many games as possible in anticipation of the 2023 NBA Draft.

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Even if they do that, there has to be some balance. You can’t have a locker room of kids. You still need some adults. More so because it’s Hardy’s first year as a head coach where it’s going to be about reestablishing the team culture that the Jazz have enjoyed for so long and the culture that drifted away from them last season. In that sense, Fontecchio makes sense.

In addition, the Jazz would like to rebuild quickly. If Fontecchio proves he can play, Utah suddenly has a piece of the puzzle. If he can’t, the Jazz haven’t splurged much money.

What does he do well?

One of the reasons Fontecchio is worth a look: he is a great small forward, the kind of player every team looks for. He has a lot more high-end athleticism than most give him credit for. He can beat the man, pass and shoot. He shot 41 percent from 3-point range last season.

That kind of profile, at least offensively, typically translates to the NBA, especially when Fontecchio sees more space and plays in a system that allows for more possessions than are usually seen across the pond. He is versatile enough to play power forward in smaller lineups. Handles the ball well enough to slide into the shooting guard role. He can execute pick-and-rolls. He is an all-around versatile offensive player. It is one of the reasons he has long been considered one of the best prospects not playing in the NBA.

In what can he improve?

He is a competitive defender. Whether he will develop into a truly good defender at the NBA level or a defender who can hold his own in space remains to be seen.

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More than anything else, this is where his fit with the NBA is probably decided. It is reasonable to assume that Fontecchio will at least be playable offensively. But can he hold his own defensively? This is the biggest question he must answer. If the answer is yes, it makes sense that he can have a long and successful career in the league. If the answer is no, the path to NBA success for Fontecchio becomes more difficult to imagine.

Fitta well?

It is hard to say, simply because this roster is not finished and can change dramatically between now and the start of the retreat. But if it is the roster that exists now? Good. The Jazz don’t have many forwards. Fontecchio is probably the purest small forward on the team at this point.

Jazz fans should not expect the roster to remain as it is. But the signing of Fontecchio is also an example of the Jazz wanting to expand on the perimeter. They thought they were too small, slow and unathletic last season. That is something they wanted to correct this offseason, and they were able to find a great perimeter player like Fontecchio.

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