Who is Simone Fontecchio, the new secret weapon for the Utah Jazz?

The Italian wing for the Utah Jazz has shined in the absence of Lauri Markkanen after a disappointing first season in the league. How did Fontecchio end up here?

Dec 31, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio (16) takes a free throw
Dec 31, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio (16) takes a free throw / Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

At 28 years old and in only his second season in the league, Utah Jazz Italian wing Simone Fontecchio is having a strong season for the Salt Lake City franchise ever since Finnish forward Lauri Markkanen went down with an injury. But, who is Simone Fontecchio?

Who is Simone Fontecchio?

Fontecchio is a sophomore in the NBA, even though he's already 28 years old. He joined the Jazz in the summer of 2022 following a European career that spanned 10 seasons and six different teams. Fontecchio was signed as a free agent by the Jazz because he went undrafted in 2017, so no team had his draft rights.

How did Simone Fontecchio make it to the NBA?

In his 10 seasons in Europe, Fontecchio played for Virtus Bologna, EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, Vanoli Cremona, Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia, ALBA Berlin, and Saski Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. He has always been a sharpshooter but had to wait until the 2020-21 season with ALBA Berlin to showcase his entire skillset at the EuroLeague level. With Bologna and Milano before that, he was a spot role player but did showcase his talent during his stints with Cremona and Emilia.

At ALBA, Fontecchio averaged 10.6 points per game on 39 percent shooting from deep in just under 24 minutes per game. The German club missed out on the EuroLeague playoffs, but they are known for being arguably the lone EuroLeague team that aims to develop younger players and help them leapfrog to new heights. Fontecchio was able to do exactly that, signing with historic EuroLeague club Baskonia the following summer. It is worth noting that ALBA Berlin is home to two more young Italian wings at the moment: Matteo Spagnolo and Gabriele Procida. Their draft rights are held by the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons respectively.

At Baskonia the following season, Fontecchio averaged 11 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while shooting over 40 percent from deep. He played well in Spain's LIGA ACB too and helped Baskonia reach the semifinals before being swept by eventual champions Real Madrid.

How has Simone Fontecchio performed in the NBA?

Fontecchio appeared in only 52 games during his rookie season with the Jazz and played less than 15 minutes per game. He had some decent moments but found himself behind Markkanen in the rotation who had a career year.

Once Markkanen got hurt this season, Fontecchio got a big opportunity to perform with more playing time, especially given the relative underperformance of John Collins, the former Atlanta Hawks forward the Jazz traded for this offseason.

Fontecchi has made 16 starts, is playing over 21 minutes and averaging 9.1 points per game on 40 percent shooting from deep on nearly 150 attempts. He has proven he is an NBA-level rotation wing and has likely become another player that Danny Ainge will demand a first-round draft pick for from any interested parties as we near the trade deadline. Regardless of how the rest of this season plays out, expect Fontecchio to be a regular in NBA rotations for the next few seasons at a minimum.

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