In his fourth season as head coach and president of basketball operations of Olimpia Milan, Ettore Messina will probably have the strongest team he has managed so far in his experience in Milan. Depth, experience, and athleticism are three of the main elements that might bring Olimpia Milan back to the EuroLeague Final Four.

Credit: Zuma Press – Scanpix
Credit Zuma Press – Scanpix

"Our dream is to reappear at the Final Four," Ettore Messina introduced the upcoming season. "This season, we are deeper, which can be a double-edged sword with 16 players, but it will be an advantage in most situations."

After winning the Italian league title and getting eliminated in the EuroLeague playoffs against Anadolu Efes, the Italian side had a great offseason, improving a roster that was already among the best in Europe even more.

In the frontcourt, they replaced Kaleb Tarczewski with the addition of Brandon Davies, one of the best big men in Europe. Dinos Mitoglou, who's still suspended and waiting for the final decision on his future after being found positive for a doping test during the past season, will be replaced by Johannes Voigtmann, who shined with Germany at EuroBasket.

The departures of Sergio Rodriguez and Malcolm Delaney in the backcourt have been excellently replaced by the arrivals of Kevin Pangos and Naz Mitrou-Long. Troy Daniels, who had a disappointing season in Milan and fell out of the rotations at some point, has been replaced by an experienced sharpshooter like Billy Baron.

Despite the presence of Shavon Shields, Gigi Datome, and Davide Alviti in that 3-4 spot, Milan added Deshaun Thomas, a proven EuroLeague veteran who could give even more depth to the team and add further versatility to Messina's side. 

In terms of overall value, it's a better team on paper than last season. The level of experience and awareness on the roster is at an all-time high. Everyone knows what's expected from them this season.

Messina decided to continue his relationship with the club until 2024 to keep fighting for the EuroLeague title, which clearly remains the main goal for this club.

In order to do so, Messina and the entire Milan organization in these past few years have always built a pretty experienced roster, giving priority to players who already have a certain amount of knowledge of the competition while adding here and there a few less experienced players with good potential.

This season won't be different. As noted by Darius Garuolis, Olimpia Milan will have the oldest roster in the EuroLeague in terms of average age with 30.2, a bit more than Real Madrid (29.9) and reigning champions Anadolu Efes (29.6).

We touched on this topic during the past season. Usually, the top EuroLeague teams are in love with the experience, and it's hard to see many rookies on the rosters. Anadolu Efes won the past two EuroLeague titles, and their average age was always among the highest in the competition.

This offseason confirmed that trend. All the additions made by Milan during the summer are at least 29 years old (Stefano Tonut is actually 28 years old, but he will turn 29 at the beginning of November). Even a rookie at this level of competition, like Naz Mitrou-Long, who joined Milan after an impressive season with Germani Brescia, is 29 years old.

Kyle Hines, the epitome of the EuroLeague veteran, commented BasketNews' post about the average age of the Italian side roster with the emoji of three glasses of wine. Like the finest wines get better with time, Milan might be the oldest roster in the competition, but they're also among the main contenders to win the title.

That's why players like Hines and Datome decided to stay and sign new contracts with the club.

Datome received interest from Australia and Japan, sources told BasketNews, and the player considered the possibility of making a different kind of experience at this stage of his career. Still, the opportunity to make another run at the EuroLeague title was something that the Italian forward couldn't turn down. 

Milan lost the first official game of the season against Virtus Bologna in the Italian Supercup. However, Olimpia Milano missed multiple players, including Kevin Pangos and Shavon Shields.

They also shot only 21% from 3-point, and most of the fans are extremely excited about the potential of this group of players. 

"I've been a fan of Olimpia Milan for more than 30 years now, and this is one of the best rosters that we had in the last 15 years", a long-time Olimpia Milan fan told BasketNews.

"Sure, losing Sergio Rodriguez was hard for us as fans, he had such an amazing connection to the club and the city.

But we got Kevin Pangos to replace him, one of the best guards in Europe, and in the frontcourt, we have amazing players like Melli, Davies, and Hines. This group could really bring us to the EuroLeague Final Four once again," he added.

The absence of the Russian teams definitely makes the playoff run a more exciting game this season since CSKA was a virtual lock every season. Zenit had also become a stable playoff contender, and in the past season, before the suspension of the Russian clubs after the invasion of Ukraine, even UNICS Kazan looked more than able to secure a playoff spot.

For sure, there'll be a lot of competition, but Olimpia Milan know that after the summer they had, the goal can only be one: returning among the top four teams of the EuroLeague. 

"I think this team has a chance to do what we have been talking about, getting back to the Final Four. After coming close so many times, I would like to be the missing piece to help this team take that final step," Deshaun Thomas said when he officially became an Olimpia Milan player. "Messina is a great coach, he has a lot of experience. Looking at his team over the past two years, I think only one piece is missing. And I can be that piece." 

"Yes, this may be the best team we have built in these four seasons," Messina said before the beginning of the season.

As always, only the court will tell if this will be enough to reach the ambitious goals that this club sets every season. But one thing is for sure: this team has all the tools to be one of the strongest in Europe and one to remember for the fans. 

The last Italian team that won the EuroLeague was Virtus Bologna back in 2001. That team had a superb roster with incredible players like the now Hall of Fame member Manu Ginobili, Antoine Rigadeau, Hugo Sconocchini, Marko Jaric, David Andersen, and Rashard Griffith.

The coach of that team? Ettore Messina. With Virtus Bologna returning to the EuroLeague competition for the first time after many years, could it be this year that coach Messina adds another EuroLeague title to his own resume? Olimpia Milan fans for sure hope that. 

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