Italian powerhouse AX Armani Exchange Milan enters this season with as much determination and ambition as at any point this century. How else to explain the moves Milan made this summer with Coach Ettore Messina's team adding half a dozen players with EuroLeague experience, including two former champions. Milan sought experience and winning mentality and hardly any player fits that definition better than the four-time champion center Kyle Hines. Luigi Datome is also a former champion and Malcolm Delaney is a former All-EuroLeague guard. Kevin Punter, Zach LeDay and Shavon Shields have all been productive EuroLeague players in recent seasons. The only Milan newcomer who will be a rookie this season is Davide Moretti.
Few teams will have a better one-two playmaking punch than Milan with Malcolm Delaney and former EuroLeague MVP Sergio Rodriguez. Both can score in bunches and have unlimited shooting range, but also shine in running the offense and serve their teammates well, which will be very important with all the weapons around them. Delaney is also a great perimeter defender. Shooting guard Kevin Punter is a potential scoring machine who hopes to continue where he left off last season when he averaged 15.9 points in 12 games with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade. Another key part of this group is small forward Vladimir Micov who provides great consistency for the club on both ends of the floor. Along with the arrival of another such player in Shavon Shields, Milan has great depth on the wings. Veteran shooting guard Michael Roll is a clever player and one of the best sharpshooters in the league. Team captain Andrea Cinciarini is the longest-tenured Milan player and always ready to provide energy off the bench, something two other guards – Riccardo Moraschini and rookie Davide Moretti – will also have to be able to showcase to earn minutes on this deep squad.
It is hard to remember when Milan's front line was as stocked and versatile as it is now. Luigi Datome has been played both forward positions for Coach Zeljko Obradovic with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul the past five seasons and it is safe to expect the same from Messina, another coaching mastermind, to use Datome's all-round game and lethal shooting touch. His winning mentality will matter, too, but no player brings more of that than Kyle Hines, an undersized big man who has won four EuroLeague titles since 2012 and played in every Final Four that has taken place since then. Hines, a two-time EuroLeague Best Defender, will also anchor Milan's defense while bringing no-nonsense leadership on and off the court. Another new center is Zach LeDay, who might not have a size advantage with his 2.03 meters, but he is tough to defend, productive in the paint and comes up big on the glass. LeDay can also hit from long range, just like athletic power forward Jeff Brooks who is in his third season with the club. Paul Biligha is another athletic but undersized center. Milan will not lack size under the rims because the team also has Kaleb Tarczewski, 2.13 meters of muscle and strength, who has improved in each of his first two seasons in the EuroLeague.
PLAYER TO WATCH
It might have taken a dozen games and a change of scenery last season, his first in the competition, for guard Kevin Punter to find his footing in the EuroLeague and take off. But take off he did. Punter averaged 6.8 points on 17.9% three-point shooting in 11 games to start last season with Olympiacos Piraeus, but then made a change and transferred to Crvena Zvezda, where he exploded. Punter averaged 15.9 points on 48.1% three-point shooting in the 12 games with the Serbian powerhouse. The latter numbers are certainly closer to what was expected from Punter. He is one of the most dangerous scorers in the competition and with his acclimatization period clearly behind him, Punter plans to stay the course and should be a fun player to watch in the coming season.
Milan has a star-studded roster and all the work and additions made over the summer have adjusted the team's ambitions accordingly. Milan has last played in the EuroLeague Playoffs in 2014 and this two-time EuroLeague champion last played at the Final Four back in 1992. That is almost a three-decade-long drought, which everyone in and around the club is hoping to end this season. With the likes of Delaney, Hines, Datome, Punter, Rodriguez – and with Coach Messina guiding them, Milan has the size, experience, talent and depth to aim for all the glory and it enters this season as one of the championship favorites.