As with most mid-to-late first-round picks, minutes are hard to come by early on. The reason is usually twofold, and both apply to DiVincenzo’s situation with the Bucks: 1) Minutes are naturally harder to come by for picks in the late teens and after by virtue of being drafted by good, established teams, which Milwaukee certainly is, and; 2) Better players go earlier, obviously.
Donte DiVincenzo probably won’t play a ton early on. He’ll have to earn minutes. But minutes are there for the taking. It’s not hard envisioning a scenario in which DiVincenzo eventually plays around 15 minutes (or more) per game this season. But it’s a bit of a complicated situation, however. There are lots of variables at play.
Last Season: Tournament Darling/Combine Star
College players who rise out of relative anonymity to show out during March Madness have been a little hit-or-miss when it comes to how they produce in the pros. DiVicenzo isn’t facing the expectations that some have (*cough* Joe Alexander *cough*). But there were some pretty intriguing players still on the board when Milwaukee made their pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. So Donte isn’t exactly playing with house money, either.
There are two extremely opposite ways to spin this. On the one hand, Donte put up a career-high 31 points in the most important ie of his life thus far. And then he lit up the competition during the NBA Draft Combine, which led to a draft stock rise higher than his 42-inch vertical. That could be a sign that he’s playing the best ball of his life and only getting better, or, it could be more of an outlier and the Bucks aren’t getting a player with the ceiling they thought he had. After all, DiVincenzo only started 12 games in his three years at Villanova. If the Wildcats didn’t see him as a full-time starter, it’s hard to see that being plausible in the NBA. (To be fair though, he could have a great career without ever starting a game.)
Areas For Improvement: Shooting
This season represents a sea change in Milwaukee: Jason Kidd (and Joe Prunty to a lesser extent) minimized the three ball as much as any head coach in the game today. Mike Budenholzer seems set on surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo with players who can space the floor and knock down threes. Regardless of all the other super-athletic things, Donte brings to the team, his shooting percentage (especially from three) and his playing time project to go hand-in-hand. While Donte didn’t shoot all that well during the preseason (more on that later), Budenholzer gave him a good look during the preseason. Perhaps some of that was due to DiVincenzo missing most of Summer League with an injury. Still, he saw 19, 25, 20, and 20 minutes in the four games leading up to the regular season. In all four of those contests, Donte posted a positive plus-minus. Not that that’s a be-all, end-all end (far from it), but it’s a good sign to be sure.
Projected Role: Role Player/Bench Energy Guy
Some Bucks fans have wondered aloud if DiVincenzo has the ballhandling and playmaking ability to play some backup point guard. There would definitely be minutes there for him if he can, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen. Instead, he might find more minutes waiting for him if he swings the other way, maybe as a small-ball forward. He is 6’5”.
Either way, he’s a natural shooting guard and slots in there nicely behind Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell. While versatility is coveted in the modern NBA, Donte’s best bet might be to focus playing the two. Not to get too bogged down on position labels – which is sort of an outdated way to look at it – but Brogdon will see a lot of time running the point and Snell could slide into the backup small forward spot behind Khris Middleton. With the top two shooting guards on the depth chart splitting time at other spots, that leaves DiVincenzo and Sterling Brown as the next men up.
Plus, if Snell can’t improve on last season’s disappointing drop in efficiency and production, there’s a golden opportunity for DiVincenzo to seize playing time. (Some of the above may seem like contradictory ideas, but that really shows how little we know about how Donte is projected to fit into the lineup, but also to emphasize the opportunity for him.)
Projected Key Stat: Three-Point Percentage
At Villanova, DiVincenzo’s three-point shooting improved every season, both in terms of efficiency and volume. Last season, he was right at 40% from behind the arc. With a deeper three-point line and better defense, a step back would be totally within expectations.
But at some point over the summer, it became fair to wonder if his shot, at some point, broke. We probably won’t get Zapruder Film-type footage from practice of him tossing up jumpers a la Markelle Fultz last year, but DiVincenzo was just 3-14 from deep this preseason. Plain and simple, that needs to be much better over the long haul.
But based on much of his college tape, it looks like he prefers (and is stronger) jumping off two feet as opposed to one. I mean, one foot or two, he can still jump out of the gym. But if he’s developed a habit of jumping off both when he can, that split-second gather step may prove costly in the NBA. It could be the difference between making a play and not.
Where it shouldn’t be a factor is in the context of rebounding. With pretty much all rebounds, there’s ample time to gather and get off the floor on two feet. DiVincenzo is decent size for a two-guard – not crazy big, but not small by any means – so there could be quite a few opportunities every game for the Bucks rookie to just out-athlete his opponent and get a board.
Shooting guards are generally not a source for rebounding. But in that sense, DiVincezo could stumble on a sort of market inefficiency. Especially since Brook Lopez doesn’t necessarily rebound as well as you might think, given his size. And you’d rather have Giannis getting an outlet pass and starting a break than planting him under the hoop banging for boards. Getting after it on the defensive end and snatching a few rebounds would be a great way for Donte DiVincenzo to carve out a role on this team while he works to improve elsewhere.