The player that finished the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season the hottest was Montepaschi Siena shooting guard Pietro Aradori. Once considered one of Italian basketball’s brightest prospects, Aradori’s shine had faded somewhat in recent years. However after he led a late comeback in Week 9 to hand FC Barcelona Regal its only loss of the regular season and followed that up by becoming the Week 10 bwin MVP, the spotlight is one again on the talented scorer. And with a niche in the rotation now carved out for him, the opportunity is there for Aradori to be a major force in the Top 16.
Last season was Aradori’s first in Siena and he hardly factored into the rotation by the second half of the season. And in the first six games of the current Euroleague campaign, only twice did he log more than 10 minutes. But an injury to star guard Rimantas Kaukenas forced changes in head coach Simone Pianigiani’s rotation and Aradori got his chance against the top defense this season. He scored 11 points in the last six minutes – including the tying and go-ahead free throws with 26 seconds to play – as Siena capped a double-digit comeback to stun Barcelona. A week later Aradori peppered the nets for a career-high 23 points and 7 rebounds in beating Asseco Prokom to end the regular season in style.
Aradori grew up playing for Assigeco Casalpusterlengo and, like then-teammate Danilo Gallinari, was considered an elite prospect from an early age. He made his professional debut in the Italian third division at age 15 and within two years moved up to Imola in Legadue. Soon Armani Milan came calling and he debuted in the Euroleague – even starting three games that season. But Aradori did not establish himself yet as top level option. He continued on to Rome, where he finished that season, and then Biella for the 2008-09 season. His breakthrough came at the end of that season as Aradori led Biella to the Italian league semifinals. A year later Aradori emerged as one of Biella’s best players in both the Eurocup and the Italian League. Last season he moved to perennial Italian champion Montepaschi and it took time for him to find his place. But it is clear to all that he has found it.
What separates Aradori from the rest is his fantastic shooting – particularly in spot-up situations. That being said, he is more than just a typical scorer. Aradori’s aggressive play sees him draw an above-average amount of fouls and he makes his free throws at a good clip. Moreover he has improved his defense in recent years and often plays his best in clutch situations.
Only 23 years old, there is still plenty of time for Aradori to emerge as a serious scoring threat in the Euroleague. And there is no time like the present. With a strong, unified and experienced team around him, look for Aradori to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves in the Top 16 to try and help Montepaschi not only get back to the Playoffs, but to another Final Four with eyes on the biggest of prizes.