Utah Jazz sign Italian forward Simone Fontecchio

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

(Charlie Neibergall | AP) Italy's forward Simone Fontecchio (13) celebrates after making three point basket during men's basketball preliminary round game against Nigeria at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Saitama, Japan.

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

Per multiple reports, the team agreed to terms with Italian forward Simone Fontecchio, who spent this past season playing for Baskonia in the Spanish Liga ACB.

Eurodevotion, a media partner of the EuroLeague, was first to report the news, and Fontecchio’s agent, Sam Foldfeder of Excel Basketball, later confirmed to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the sides will sign a two-year contract 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 side to the senior team.

In 2016, he moved on to fellow Italian Lega Basket Serie A team Olimpia Milano, and also had a stint for 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 on to Spain, playing for Baskonia.

This past season, in ACB play, Fontecchio appeared 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 2021-22 EuroLeague play, he appeared in 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 out clause that was set 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-point range.

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

After earlier executing a trade of Rudy Gobert 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 pick swap in 2026), the Jazz currently have 14 players under contract for the 2022-23 season.