In Defense of Donte DiVincenzo

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Fan narratives surrounding Donte DiVincenzo oscillate by the day.

Unfortunately, so does his production.

Against the Brooklyn Nets, Donte put in his worst offensive showing of the season, ending the game scoreless after missing all of his five shots. That one game was easily a microcosm of his performance so far, betraying a high-energy player with offensive limitations too glaring to overlook.

It wasn’t all bad at first, to be sure. Donte shot the ball with 63.3% efficiency from deep in his first six games, showing he can clearly stroke the basketball from distance. Fans at the time went so far as saying the Bucks won the botched trade for Bogan Bogdanovic. They were right to.

Those days are gone. In the six games after, he shot the ball on 24.4%, and the slump was officially on. Since then, he would have some good scoring spurts here and there, only to fall off once more. As the playoffs draw closer, Donte’s inconsistent shooting has dragged on for what might be the worst scoring slump of his career.

Is The Big Ragu really the bust and net negative that Bucks fans are making him out to be these days? Here’s a quick look at what the numbers say.

Not Looking Good for Donte’s Scoring 

Donte has always been a streaky shooter, but when it rains, it pours. Just two games after he failed to score a single point, Donte went 5-7 from 3PT against the Washington Wizards in a game where Khris Middleton was out. His 19 points on .750/.714/.667 splits marked his fourth-best scoring game in a season where he averages just 10 points per game on .416/.377/.721 shooting.

It’s clear that consistency is the problem. He never really figured out how to string together games of that caliber despite shooting 37.7 from the three-point line for the season. Since the All-Star break, Donte is averaging just 9.7 points per game on a below-average 40.0 on field goals and 34.7 percent from distance. It’s safe to say he just hasn’t panned out as a scorer this season after a scorching hot start.

His finishing around the rim is just as suspect as his perimeter shooting. He’s shooting 57.1% on shoots taken less than three feet from the rim. Whether a result of his form or unbridled energy, Donte just isn’t capitalizing on decidedly easy shots this year.

With an inconsistent outside game and a limited inside package, it’s safe to say DiVincenzo has been a liability on the offensive end. He’s shooting 41.8 overall and is only a net +3.5 in his on-court minutes so far, though his net rating is likely inflated by playing next to the Bucks starters.

Donte’s Defense Still Makes Him a Positive

His defensive impact is an established fact, but his lack of regularity on offense tends to overshadow how impactful he is on that end. Consider this: among starting guards with at least 60 games played, Donte’s 107.4 defensive rating leads the league according to NBA Stats. 

He’s also fourth in this group in offensive rating and first in net rating. 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.

Just take a look at his head-to-head matchups. Here’s a quick rundown of how the league’s star guards fared with Donte as their defender.

  • Kemba Walker: 4/11 FG (36.4%), 39.3 partial possessions
  • Chris Paul: 4/11 FG (36.4%), 33.7 PPoss
  • Jamal Murray: 1/6 FG (16.7%), 32.8 PPoss
  • Donovan Mitchell: 1/6 FG (16.7%), 31.8 PPoss
  • Collin Sexton: 2/9 FG (22.2%), 25.6 PPoss

His matchup stats by position speak even more flatteringly about his defensive ability. Per NBA.com, Donte is holding guards to 38.6 field goal shooting and 34.1 percent shooting from deep.

Hustle Still Shines

All things considered, it’s hard to discount Donte’s overall impact outside of scoring. It’s a two-way game, after all, and DiVincenzo has shown, at the very least, that he can still contribute to winning basketball even when his shot isn’t falling.

Per Cleaning the Glass, in the 3,486 possessions the Bucks have played with Donte on the floor, Milwaukee has outscored opponents by +8.7 points. After he scored zero points, he still managed to grab eight rebounds as his +9 was second on the team.

The lion’s share of his impact has to do with his hustle, which typically doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.

Few guards in the league can match the Villanova product’s intensity on the court. His 1.4 loose balls recovered per 36 minutes are tied for third in the NBA, while he’s 10th in total loose balls recovered. Among starting guards who have played at least 60 games, Donte is second in offensive rebound percentage (4.5%) and third in pace (104.8).

He’s also an excellent rebounder for his size, and his 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes are top three in the league among guards 6-foot-4 and under.

Despite everything, Donte’s overall contribution to games still makes him a net positive to this Bucks team when all is said and done. That he is the worst starting guard in the league is patently incorrect. Regardless of where you stand on the Donte debate, it may be time for Bucks fans to rethink how they judge the third-year shooting guard.

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