2019-20 Breakout Player Series: Donte DiVincenzo
It was April 2nd, 2018. I was in Nashville for a small vacation, and I decided to get some dinner at a small sports bar just down the street from the Ryman Auditorium. I knew that Villanova was going to play Michigan for the championship, but I had no interest in the outcome. The air was thick with the smell of barbeque and the muffled sounds of a dozen musicians playing country music down Broadway Street. Through the jokes and stories being told, I looked at the T.V. to periodically check in on the game. The story of the game had not changed since the first 10 minutes; Villanova was going to run away with this one. However, something did catch my eye that night, a young frat-boy looking kid who just hit a three to put his team up 18. He then turned to the crowd and winked on his way to a 31 point game and being named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. That kid now plays for the contending Bucks and dawns number 9 with a bold “DIVINCENZO” on the back.
When I see many kids play incredibly well during March Madness, I usually say something like, “He’s good, but I don’t think he can succeed in the NBA.” Donte was no exception to this rule. While he came off the bench and dominated a very formidable Wolverine squad, he didn’t strike me as someone who could contribute in the professionals. Here I am 18 months later, swallowing my words.
In his rookie season with the Bucks, DiVincenzo didn’t put up stellar numbers, as he only averaged 5 points a game and shot a disappointing 26.5% from deep, he did show flashes of promise. However, he did spend time in the G-League to develop, but looking at his performance this season so far, it was worth it. So far, Donte is averaging 6 points a game and is shooting 45% from deep as of November 12th.
It’s easy to see that DiVincenzo is a solid shooter, but what you may not expect is his incredible athleticism. Boasting a 42 inch vertical and better-than-most quickness, he can run with the best of them in the league. He plays very tough and will out hustle his opponents any given night. However, his basketball IQ needs to develop if he is to become a main option for the Bucks. He takes ill-advised shots too often, he doesn’t play smart enough defense, and he has issues isolating on offense. He is showing signs of improvement, but keeping in mind he is a young player who was never necessarily a star, these are things that can be weeded out with time.
What makes DiVincenzo so special? Why is he the player who will have a breakout year? It comes down to necessity. The Bucks are a title contender this year, but few have them as the favorite. Something needs to be done to put the squad over the top, and the answer is Donte. Already having an exponentially better season than last year, he shows signs of dominance which is what is desperately needed when Giannis or Middleton are having off nights. Also, look back to that Villanova team that he was on. Donte didn’t even start, he came off the bench and became the Final Four M.O.P, who’s to say he can’t do something similar with the Bucks?
Many have been praising DiVincenzo’s abilities for years now, like when fellow Italian Dick Vitale said, “Who said all Italians are construction workers? He’s showing you right there. He’s a hoopster! He’s so athletic, and he’s so explosive!” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said about Donte, “You watch him in practice, you watch him in games, you watch him in the draft and again, all these guys at this level are great competitors but then there’s some guys that kind of separate themselves and show a willingness to do anything to win.” Coach Bud certainly thinks that Donte has the ability to go over the top and breakthrough to become a key part of the Bucks team.
Many have been saying that the Bucks are good, but they need to push a bit harder if they want to be NBA Champions. I’m here to say that it is possible with the roster they have now, and the answer is Donte DiVincenzo. His competitive drive, athletic skill set, and visible improvement in shooting and IQ all point towards him becoming a legitimate star in the league. This season, he may not average 20+ points, but he could work his way up to something in the 14-17 range and develop further and further in the coming seasons. With that, a championship banner could be hanging in the rafters of the Fiserv Forum.
I’ll make sure to be watching from my spot at the bar.