Donte DiVincenzo was easily the most polarizing player on the Milwaukee Bucks’ roster this year. Fans first claimed his hot start to the season meant the Bucks won the botched sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic. As his shooting percentages dipped, so too did the criticisms surrounding his game oscillate. By the season’s end, there were some who were convinced he was the league’s worst shooting guard.
Yet his overall impact on the floor was clearly missed against the Brooklyn Nets. Pat Connaughton and PJ Tucker were slot into Donte’s role as a hustle player and near-elite defensive stopper, to varied results.
Here’s a look back at the season Donte DiVincenzo put in for the Milwaukee Bucks, and what the third-year guard can focus on moving forward.
It would be misinformed to start any discussion on DiVincenzo’s abilities on any note besides his defense. Clamping down on opposing guards continues to be his calling card, and he shone on that end of the floor this year. Among starting guards with at least 60 games played, Donte’s 109.1 defensive rating was 8th in the league according to NBA Stats. In the regular season, opponents turned the ball over 7.8 times per game with Donte playing versus 6.0 when he was off the floor.
Regardless of his production, Donte’s defensive presence could have made all the difference against the Brooklyn Nets. Against the Miami Heat, Donte was holding forwards to 1-5 (20.0%) shooting and guards to 2-7 (28.6%). When defended by Donte, both Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro went 1-3 on field goal attempts (33.3%). In Donte’s 23.3 minutes per game, Miami was scoring a horrid 98.0 points per 100 possessions.
It’s tough to imagine a matchup against Irving not yielding at least a couple more stops, which might have made all the difference sans James Harden. Connaughton is a fine defender, but deploying him against Irving and Harden saw a clear dropoff in defensive efficiency. And though the Bucks eventually took the series in Game 7, it may not have taken that many games with Donte on the floor.
Bucks missed Donte’s elite hustle and rebounding
Against the shorter Brooklyn Nets, offensive rebounding was one of the keys to the Bucks seven-game victory. The Bucks were already snagging a league-high 50.9 boards in the playoffs without Donte. They also allow the lowest opponent offensive rebound percentage in these playoffs so far (21.7%).
The Brooklyn Nets only pulled down 6.7 of their misses in that series, which led to a league-worst 8.7 second-chance points. The Bucks, meanwhile, were tied for second with 13.0 second-chance points per game off 10.6 offensive boards a night.
In their win against Milwaukee, the Hawks outrebounded the Bucks 45-51 as Clint Capela and John Collins made life hard for them on the glass. The two capitalized on second-chance opportunities and putback dunks that paced the Hawks all game long.
Rebounding is a clear strong point for the Bucks and something that could have been a game-changer in their two series without Donte.
What a BLOCK from Donte. 😳 pic.twitter.com/N3LeN8vgie
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 26, 2021
Among starting guards who have played at least 60 games, Donte is second in offensive rebound percentage (4.5%). His 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes are top three in the league among guards 6-foot-4 and under. This has everything to do with his 22.7% defensive rebound percentage—which puts him in the 84th percentile in the league.
Don’t sleep on his hustle, either. His 1.4 loose balls recovered per 36 minutes are third in the NBA, and he finished 10th in total loose balls recovered.
The numbers make it clear: Donte is an elite rebounder for his position. It’s difficult to say his presence wouldn’t have given the Bucks a few extra possessions against teams that had no answers for them on the glass.
No consistency in Donte’s offense
For all his contributions by way of hustle and defense, Donte never really put it together as a scorer. Contrary to most fan takes, Donte DiVincenzo was not the worst slasher in the NBA. It’s clear he has the burst and the strength to take defenders deep into the paint. It’s what he did once he got there that was the dealbreaker in his offensive package.
It bears repeating: finishing at the rim is the biggest weakness of DiVincenzo. This season, he finished with a shameful 95-of-175 (54.3%) shooting clip in the restricted area, and 13-of-47 (27.7%) in the painted non-restricted area. He lacked the finesse to score under duress with his layup and floater packages too limited to find ways to score.
Chef Donte had the san marzano tomatoes simmering last night. pic.twitter.com/TqKqb816bZ
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 5, 2021
To be sure, playing next to three two-way superstars will naturally limit opportunities to put the ball in the basket. But even in his role as a 3&D guard, Donte never really provided much of the three.
Besides his individual production, fans continue to overlook his on-court impact. Per PBP Stats, the Bucks net and offensive rating also rose to +8.3 and 119.6, respectively, with Donte on the court versus +4.4 and 115.4 with him benched. He’s already a competent passer, and the numbers prove it. When Donte was on the floor, the Bucks assisted on 58.4% of its field goals, per NBA.com/stats. He’s second on the team in that statistic.
That he still finished with a decent 37.9% shooting clip speaks for itself. The opposition still had to respect him as a perimeter threat, providing the Bucks competent floor spacing. He wasn’t making his shots often, but his teammates were better scorers when he was on the floor.
Highlights showed promise
Against the Pelicans in February, Mike Budenholzer made the unlikely decision to start DiVincenzo at point guard. The result was nothing if not revelatory.
Donte held Pelicans guard Eric Bledsoe to 5-13 shooting, sank four of his seven triples, and notched the game-sealing charge. He finished with a career-high 24 points (9/16 FG) to go with seven boards, and nine assists. It was the best game of DiVincenzo’s young career.
Donte DiVincenzo tonight:
24 PTS (9-16 FG and 4-7 3PT)
Held Eric Bledsoe to 5-13
Three-level scoring pic.twitter.com/SpxZsOwbd4
— 2021 NBA CHAMPIONS (@BucksGotNext) February 26, 2021
His 34 minutes on the court then marked the most playing time he had in a game and the ninth-highest usage rate (22.1%) in this season. With the ball in his hands more, Donte also got his third-highest assist percentage (31.5%) and fifth-highest offensive rating (153.0) per Basketball-Reference.
More than anything else, it was handling the ball that made a huge difference in this game for DiVincenzo. For this writer, that game proved that Donte could play point guard at a time when the only other choice was DJ Augustin.
The potential to be an excellent shooter remains. He shot 14-of-35% (40.0%) on mid-range jumpers and 26-of-63 (41.3%) on corner threes, all of which are excellent when compared to league average. This season, he had 29 games where he shot above 40% from distance. It’s clear he can shoot the rock. It’s consistency that he needs to work on.
Donte takes the charge to seal the win!! pic.twitter.com/SIa0VjmRx7
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 26, 2021
Things to work on
As it currently stands, it’s looking like Donte will remain in the starting shooting guard role as a 3&D player and tertiary playmaker. As mentioned, this writer can’t help but wonder how effective DiVincenzo would be as lead ball-handler and scorer off the bench.
The Big Ragu could also look into training with other players and trainers. Much like Giannis, Donte admitted to sticking mainly with the Bucks training staff and facility for most of the last offseason.
Consistency as a shooter should be top priority for his role, but becoming a better finisher will make Donte a more dynamic weapon for Milwaukee.
"Anytime Donte's thrown adversity…the way he handles it, continues to be impressive every time." pic.twitter.com/luCvOhH1xy
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) May 28, 2021
The future is bright for Donte
It may not have ended the way we wanted, but a cursory glance at the season Donte put in shows how important he is to this Bucks team moving forward. Despite his pronounced limitations, he was always a net positive in his on-court minutes by way of his unbridled hustle and defense.
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