Luigi Datome’s path to the NBA is different from his fellow countrymen.
Italy’s Andrea Bargnani, Marco Belinelli and Danilo Gallinari were drafted as soon as they were eligible.
Datome, 25, was passed over. And while a well-known prospect among NBA insiders, it wasn’t until a breakout year with Virtus Roma this past season that a move became a real possibility.
“It was first year somebody from the NBA wants me; I couldn’t do it before,” Datome said Monday, as the Pistons introduced the Italian League MVP as their newest player. “Last 10 years, last five years with Rome, have allowed me to be a better player and also a better man. So I think it is a good moment to come here for the career and the personal moment.
“For sure, I would prefer to be drafted maybe, but I can’t complain about what happened to my career. I’m just so happy and so satisfied of this moment and this call with the Detroit Pistons.”
Datome’s draft class was 2009, but after a promising start earlier in his career, the league decided to pass.
He was always a good outside shooter, but it all came together for him this past season when he led Virtus Roma to the Italian League finals. He shot over 50% from three-point land for a good portion of the season and averaged 16.6 points per game.
“Every career of every player is different,” Datome said. “It takes more time or years to get confident to play with my game.
“I played a lot of minutes. I was main player on my team. I was the center of the club and the club was pushing to me because there were big expectations for me.”
One way to evaluate the upside of a prospect is to take a look at who ventured to Europe to scout Datome.
For guys with a little upside who project to become rotational players, one might see just a European scout doing the heavy lifting.
But Datome saw a steady stream of league executives from Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to Rockets GM Daryl Morey to Bucks GM John Hammond made Datome part of overseas scouting trips.
The world champion Miami Heat also was interested, but the Pistons were able to seal the deal with a two-year, $3.5-million agreement last week.
“It was just crazy that people from overseas would take the flight over just to watch me play and at that moment I was realizing something was going to happen to me,” he said. “In the moment that they came to visit me it was just an honor. I didn’t want to think about NBA and have an illusion. I just wanted to finish the best with Roma and whatever happens, happens.”
Considered one of the best shooters in Europe, he is 6-feet-9 and 220 pounds and his immediate task will be creating operating room for center Andre Drummond and power forward Greg Monroe.
“I think that’s the reason why they signed me because they have this big center, very good players, big,” Datome said. “Make the defense make a choice, guard the shooter or guard the paint.”
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