When the Detroit Pistons announced the signing of Luigi Datome last summer, it was the cause of much excitement and intrigue. Detroit desperately needed a three-point shooter, and Datome was one of the most highly rated in Europe. Pistons fans were desperately hoping that they had picked up an unknown gem in the mold of Manu Ginobili, or even Datome’s compatriot, Marco Belinelli, but so far that hasn’t seemed to be the case.
To be fair to Datome, or “Gigi” as he is nicknamed, he received minimal opportunity to show his worth in the NBA. Neither Maurice Cheeks or John Loyer seemed to be particularly overwhelmed by what the 26-year-old offered, and as a result he spent the majority of the season on the bench. Datome only played 238 total minutes, across 34 games last season, and in his brief time on the floor he never got it together.
Gigi arrived in the Motor City lauded as one of the EuroLeague’s most highly rated three-point shooters. For his career, Datome averaged 39.4 percent in Europe’s premier competition. Not only that, but on the international stage, Datome averaged 48.1 percent from deep with Italy in last summer’s EuroBasket competition. So far, this level of performance hasn’t translated Stateside for the man from Venetia though.
In the limited time he got on the court last season, Datome’s numbers were far from impressive. His general field goal percentage was only 35.1 percent, while his three-point average was a meager 17.9 percent. Datome offered next to nothing across the rest of the production categories either. As a shooter, if his percentages were high, he might get away with that, but not with the way he was shooting last season.
All in all, Datome wasn’t the only Piston who will want to forget last season though. He wasn’t even the only one to have a poor shooting year, as the team ranked second last in the NBA in three-point percentage. It’s now the beginning of a new era in Detroit though, and with the arrival of Stan Van Gundy, all of the players will be on pretty much clean slates.
In fact, there’s reason to believe that Datome could be a genuine contributor in a Van Gundy rotation. As a coach he loves floor spacing, and you need look no further than the Pistons signing players like Jodie Meeks, Cartier Martin, DJ Augustin and Caron Butler, to see just how much he values shooters. If Datome can become the player he was touted as being before his move to the NBA, he could well become an instant favorite of his new head coach.
Datome is currently away with the Italian national team as part of their qualification series for Eurobasket 2015, and some time away from the NBA playing in his home continent seems like it could be the perfect tonic for Datome. Joe Dexter of Piston Powered highlighted some of Datome’s solid play for Italy in their first two games of qualification, while despite a narrow loss to Russia last night, Gigi was once again impressive.
Datome had 15 points and six rebounds, while shooting 40 percent from deep, as Italy moved to 2-1 having narrowly been edged out by the Russians. Datome and his teammates should still be in good position to qualify if they can defeat Switzerland on Thursday though. Either way, another good game from Datome should continue to see his confidence build.
It’s more than clear that he hasn’t found the adjustment to life in the NBA to be particularly easy to date, but Datome is clearly skilled. Perhaps, after a slow start last year he just lost all confidence, and with no clear leadership or direction from the coaching staff, he never got it back. With Van Gundy now at the helm, it’s a new dawn in Detroit though, and who knows, we could see a very different Gigi Datome this season.