AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan underwent a thorough facelift over the summer which did not stop with the team’s roster. In addition to a change in the team name and logo, Simone Pianigiani was hired as new head coach. He will have a much different squad than the one that finished last in the EuroLeague last year since nine new faces have arrived in the fashion capital, including six with previous EuroLeague experience. Jordan Theodore and Andrew Goudelock may be the new starting backcourt, with Dairis Bertans eager to add some long-range shots and assists off the bench. Veteran swingman Vladimir Micov brings a wealth of experience, while centers Patric Young, Arturas Gudaitis and Marco Cusin and power forwards Cory Jefferson and Amath M'Baye ensure the frontline will be nothing like in years past.
As a former All-EuroLeague guard and EuroCup MVP, Andrew Goudelock has what it takes to carry a team offensively; he was the EuroLeague’s No. 3 scorer last season with Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv. Playmaker Jordan Theodore will make things easier for those around him on both ends of the floor. A superb passer and excellent scorer, Theodore will hold the reins on offense. Dairis Bertans comes off a superb EuroLeague rookie season and will look to build on it. With veteran playmaker Andrea Cinciarini and combo guard Mantas Kalnietis expected to come off the bench, the second unit will be in great hands. Small forward Vlado Micov fits the mold of being a complete player and he is coming off the best-scoring season of his career. Zoran Dragic and Awudu Abass add more shot-making and defensive pressure to an extremely deep perimeter rotation.
In the past, Pianigiani has liked big men with mobility and this season he will have his pick. As a EuroLeague debutant last season, Davide Pascolo showed he belonged and his hustle kept Milan in games many times. Cory Jefferson and Amath M'Baye figure to take most of the minutes at the ‘4’ spot. While Jefferson comes to play in Europe for the first time, M'Baye comes off a big season in the Italian League. With these three power forwards, it is clear that Milan will always have a player with a full tank at this position. The latest addition for this new season was Lithuanian center Arturas Gudaitis, who dominated the EuroCup last season and is ready for a new challenge. Veteran Marco Cusin is an efficient and bruising, old-school center whose experience will help all those around him. Kaleb Tarczewski, who earned the nickname “Zeus” in his college days due to his physique, impressed after joining Milan at the end of last season and will look to do more coming out of the gate this year. Athletic, but injury-plagued Patric Young could also be a difference maker, but he appears likely to miss the start of the season after offseason surgery. Forward Simone Fontecchio will fight for minutes off the bench as he did last season and rounding out the squad is youngster Andre La Torre, who hopes to make his EuroLeague debut.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Jordan Theodore has been one of the best guards in Europe not to play in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague over the past few seasons and that is about to change. Last season’s Basketball Champions League MVP, Theodore is an offensive maestro who led the Turkish League and Champions League in assists and was among the leaders in scoring last season with Banvit Bandirma. Though it is likely that his scoring will drop with the cast of talents around him, Theodore is the type of player who can keep them happy with his instincts to share the ball and find the open man, but if defenses don’t respect his individual skills, Theodore can punish them with his quick-release jumper or sizzling drives to the basket. Already as a EuroLeague newcomer, Theodore could power one of the league’s best attacks and challenge to lead the competition in assists.
AX Milan is a team to keep an eye on as it enters the season with unparalleled depth. While that means on the one hand that with so much talent on the bench, there is no reason for any player to go at less than full speed at any time, the abundance of newcomers to the team means that chemistry must be worked hard for. But on the sidelines in Coach Pianigiani is a man that has experience in such situations and was brought in to propel this team back to its glory days. Milan is a team that should not be judged too harshly in the opening month because the squad has the talent to contend for a playoff spot if everything comes together.