Foreign Relations: Matteo Spagnolo
Time to check in with our basketball "friends" around the world. It's time to take a look at Italian guard Matteo Spagnolo
“Communicating. Keeping up with Foreign Relations…” - Maverick (Top Gun)
Every Draft cycle features a crop of international prospects that introduce mystery to NBA fans. You find yourself diving into the universe of YouTube, shuffling through as many possible highlight mixes as possible to get caught up on the latest overseas prospects that are buzzing in the basketball world. Well, that’s why you have me folks. In the words of Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom…
“Ladies and Gentlemen…this is your captain speaking.”
One of my favorite things about the evaluation process is how the overseas game has continued to blossom each year. There’s always been a saying thrown around the basketball world… “if you can play, they will find you.” The same can be said for the scouting process. If a certain prospect starts to buzz with his play overseas, it’s only a matter of time before that buzz starts to make it’s way to the Draft world. One prospect that has continued to generate some noise as of late has been Italian guard Matteo Spagnolo. Now I’m going to be honest, if you don’t go back and read that previous sentence with a heavy Italian accent…I’m going to be a bit disappointed.
Spagnolo has been playing this year for Vanoli Cremona in the Italian first division. He’s spent time in the previous years playing for powerhouse Real Madrid and has continued to impress with his play this season. Listed at 6’5” 180 pounds, the 19-year-old guard has been a name that has started to heat up when it comes to the incoming 2022 crop of international prospects. As I found myself diving into as much tape as I could possibly handle, I found myself becoming more intrigued with each game that came across the screen. Spagnolo won’t wow you with his athleticism, but he understands his limitations and can make opponents dance on regular basis. So far this year, the Italian guard is averaging 12.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 49.7% from the field and 45.0% from three-point-range.
Without any more interruptions…let’s take a look at the Italian Stallion (couldn’t resist).
Now before you get all in your feelings after watching this first clip, allow me the opportunity to explain why I felt it was important to mention it. As mentioned before, Spangolo is putting up some impressive production when it comes to his efficiency from outside. You’ll see a number of times throughout his games that his shot can have a little bit of a loading process when it comes to extending his range. This clip stood out to me because there was a noticeable increase in speed when it came to getting his shot up. That’s not saying that Spangolo doesn’t have the ability to hurt defenses from outside when needed, but he’s a demon when it comes to the mid-range.
PLAYMAKING PART I
What I love the most about watching the Italian guard on tape is his feel for the game. Spagnolo has the ability to dazzle you with some of his creativity, but he doesn’t always need to. There’s a big difference with that previous statement, as he understands that making the simple passes can create promising looks. Love this aggressive drive here by Matteo before he quickly realizes that he has an outlet on the wing for a wide open opportunity.
OFF THE BOUNCE
There’s a number of times on tape in which some might not come away impressed with Matteo’s athleticism. That’s perfectly okay. I still found myself intrigued with the idea that Spagnolo knows it and instead uses his hesitations and quickness to set up defenders. Loved this sequence by the shifty point guard who showcases some intriguing footwork and quickness to create this fadeaway.
MAY I HAVE THIS DANCE?
What I absolutely LOVED about watching Spagnolo is the fact that he can get in a groove QUICKLY. Once he starts to find a rhythm, you can see the confidence in his game starts to pour all over the floor. It’s not something that results in questionable decisions, it’s the exact opposite. You can see in a number of occasions that Matteo will make a couple of plays and then all of a sudden starts flowing with energy. He has the handles and ability to make defenders look silly when he wants to and this play is a great example of that. Great job of setting the defender up with a couple of nice sequences before a splash from deep.
Spagnolo won’t get too fancy with his dribble, but he has the ability to pull a rabbit out of a hat whenever he needs to. He dances with the ball and knows how to use his dribble to set up defenders with hesitations and body fakes. There’s too many times on tape in which you’ll find yourself wanting to rewind what you just saw. Love the low quick cross-over here to set up a wide open jumper.
PLAYMAKING PART II
Something that continued to get my attention throughout the deep dive of the 19-year-old guard was his ability to get his head around and make quick decisions. Matteo does a great job on a number of occasions of getting the defense to react before analyzing quickly where the ball should go. There’s a number of times you’ll see him hitting teammates in stride the moment he see’s a window open up.
This play literally made me laugh out loud when I watched it the first seven times. Just the fact that Spagnolo felt that confident to throw a behind-the-back dime from that angle makes me feel like a kid at a candy store.
There’s definitely some sort of wizardry with some of the plays that Matteo can make off the dribble. Although the footwork here on the spin dribble is gorgeous, the touch on his shots is something that continued to impress me. Spagnolo does have some weaknesses to his game, especially when it comes to finishing around the rim. It’s a part of his game that is going to have to get better, but continuing to develop his floater and mid-range game can go a long way towards “hiding” it.
Just loved this all around sequence from Matteo Spagnolo on this play. Although there’s plenty of love about his offensive game throughout this piece, I know all of you are wondering about the defense. There’s definitely some work to be done, when it comes to Spagnolo becoming a more consistent defender. Still, a great job here of reading the passing lane and quickly getting off to the races. Love the job by Matteo to immediately get to the middle of floor and then attack the last line of defense aggressively.
OKAY, STOP IT MATTEO
You remember earlier when I said that Matteo Spagnolo can quickly start to ooze with confidence on the floor? Well, this is exactly what I’m talking about. This is a freakish play in which Spagnolo makes it look routine. Notice the touch on this shot as I hinted before. The 19-year-old doesn’t always bring this type of play out frequently, but he isn’t afraid to let you know that he has it in his arsenal at any moment.
So there’s some important things to educate you on when it comes to Italian guard Matteo Spagnolo. As mentioned before, Spagnolo had been playing previously with Real Madrid for the last couple of years. He’s currently on a loan from Real Madrid, which is why he’s playing for Cremona this year. He’s currently under contract with Real Madrid for an additional two seasons, which means that NBA teams are going to be intrigued with him as a potential draft-and-stash candidate. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Spagnolo is definitely a prospect that could use the additional time to continue to master his craft. With his consistent production and improvement this year, Spagnolo could be a prospect that could become a serious asset in the NBA down the road. There’s plenty of tools and flashes and if Matteo can become a more consistent defender moving forward, he could pay off BIG TIME down the road.