If you don’t know it yet, Donte DiVincenzo was the Milwaukee Bucks’ first round pick in June’s NBA Draft. While his selection left some fans unsatisfied, it turns out that there is some reason for excitement. His summer league hit some road bumps with a groin injury and not scoring a point from the field, but there is still much we can learn and look forward to with Donte. I didn’t watch much college basketball (especially Villanova basketball); thankfully Eugene Rapay and Jake Gofman from VU Hoops were able to jump in to answer my questions and provide more insight on DiVincenzo.
1. Donte exploded onto the scene during the NCAA tournament. Was that a flash-in-the-pan, or has he always displayed that type of game?
Eugene: Most will talk about his 31-point National Championship performance, but he isn’t a one-hit wonder. This past season, DiVincenzo certainly showed a bit more consistency as a scorer than in years past. There was a two-and-a-half month stretch this year, where he always reached double figures in scoring. He might have been the sixth man, but he was important enough to Villanova’s success that he played starter-like minutes. When he’s on, he’s on. He singlehandedly kept Villanova alive during a subpar first half performance against Alabama in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, but going back further than that he’s enjoyed a number of big-time performances. There was his near triple-double on the road against Xavier in a top-5 matchup, dominating performances against St. John’s and Butler, and he even had one of his best games in Milwaukee (R.I.P. BMO Harris Bradley Center) against Marquette in January.
Jake: The National Championship game was just one instance where he was given the green light to takeover as a player off the bench, but it wasn’t the only one. Excellent place to start with Donte because consistency was an issue at times for Villanova Sixth Man of the Year. Chalk some of it up to fatigue, as his minutes jumped this season and more was expected of him, but Donte closed the season on a relative low note, scoring in single digits in every one of our Conference Championship games. His NCAA Tournament performance will be remembered as being spectacular, but in some ways that will be conveniently revisionist as he nearly played Villanova out of the tournament in the Sweet 16 against West Virginia. In that game, being hounded by now Grizzlies rookie Jevon Carter, DiVincenzo was almost unplayable, finishing with just seven points, two assists and six turnovers in 22 minutes.
But that’s about as negative as I can be with Donte. We (VuHoops) have always been high on Donte’s wide range of skills and bullish on how they would translate to the NBA. Looking into his game logs you can see the magnitude of ways he impacts the game on a stat-level, and his impact is capable of exceeding the box score when he’s spacing the floor, shooting threes off the dribble, or driving into the lane to create better opportunities of teammates. Those skills were on full display in the National Championship.
2. What do you see as Donte’s strengths and weaknesses?
Jake: The first thing that stands out about DiVincenzo is his athleticism. It’s no joke. At this year’s combine he had the highest standing vertical (34.5 inches) and was tied for the best max vertical jump (42 inches). He’s quick and explosive, and that’s probably why he thrives in isolation or one-on-one matchups. This leaping ability has made him an underrated rim protector and rebounder. Aside from that, he’s improved his jump shot enormously since coming to Villanova, and it’s helped him become more of an all-around scoring threat. In his first nine games as a true freshman, he shot 17.6 percent and it wasn’t pretty--they were bad misses and one even hit the side of the backboard. He shot 40.1 percent from deep last season and became a trusted weapon at the perimeter than in years past. His athleticism combined with his improved shooting makes him an all-around offensive weapon.
As for his weaknesses, he does have some issues with turnovers. Although National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson primarily ran the floor at ‘Nova, there were times that DiVincenzo was able to orchestrate the floor. There were also times where he had some questionable turnovers off poor decisions. His 16.9 percent turnover rate pinned him in the bottom half of the Big East conference among players that accounted for at least 40 percent of a team’s minutes. This questionable decision-making has also translated over on the other end. While he’s a capable on-ball defensive player, he is prone to making mistakes when he’s off-ball, whether it’s losing track of a man or coming in for a double team/help defense and leaving an opponent wide open. A lot of these problems seem to stem from a mental, basketball IQ aspect, as opposed to a physical deficiency. Also, he isn’t exactly automatic from the free throw line, converting on just about 70 percent of his foul shots.
3. What is a hidden skill or ability of his that people might not know about?
Eugene: He can throw down. For those that haven’t watched or acquainted themselves with DiVincenzo or Villanova Basketball that much, he can dunk with the best of them. A lot of it goes back to the “white man can’t jump” basketball stereotype, but DiVincenzo can defy gravity and rattle the rim. He’s won dunk contests as a high schooler, he introduced himself to the basketball program by winning the Midnight Madness dunk contest with a windmill off the side of the backboard as a true freshman. Also, he’s known as the “Michael Jordan of Delaware” so there’s that. Meanwhile, Jake mentioned two things stick out to me: His shooting off the dribble and his rebounding. I mentioned his shooting but it’s worth mentioning again. Being able to use the screen and find a little bit of space to shoot is an incredibly important skill in the modern NBA. When PnR defenders fear the immediate launch from three, they are forced to come over the screen and that tends to open up a lot of space. In college, DiVincenzo commanded that respect from perimeter defenders. When the screener came, the on-ball defender had to get tighter or else hope Donte would misfire. If he got too tight, DiVincezo had the ability to blow right by him.
Jake: That was the story of the NCAA Championship, something I wrote about in April on VuHoops. In that game, Donte took six of his seven threes off the dribble, making four. Even more impressive, all five of his makes were from NBA range. Rebounding might be one of DiVincenzo’s most overlooked skills and one that will translate well to the NBA. Donte averaged 6.8 rebounds per 40 minutes, and was top-90 among all NCAA players (obscure league included) in defensive and offensive rebounding percentage. You’re likely aware he has exceptional athleticism, but he uses that athleticism well on both ends of the floor to grab rebounds away from larger players. Couple that with the scrappy mentality instilled in all Villanova players and DiVo will likely surprise many in the NBA with how effective he is at nabbing boards. I think this skill will be especially important if he’s running the offensive, as he’ll have the opportunity to grab the defensive rebound and start the fast break in the other direction.
4. Do you think Donte will fit in well with the Milwaukee Bucks?
Eugene: DiVincenzo appears to be a good piece around Giannis Antentokoumpo, who’s at the core for the Bucks. He’s a combo guard that brings a good amount of versatility in the backcourt. He can be a solid secondary scoring asset that Antentokoumpo can find, if he opts to defer, and he can be a secondary playmaker. Playing time and minutes might not be a source of drama for DiVincenzo, as he took pride in being a sparkplug off the bench during his time at Villanova and it worked out just fine for him and the Wildcats. His athleticism, the various things he can bring to a basketball court, and I think the Bucks are looking to beef up their bench and find some reliable role players they can depend on when the starters are taking a breather--DiVincenzo seems to be a great fit for the Bucks.
When I brought up a potential point guard duties to Jake, he seemed skeptical yet encouraging. Jake: We don’t have a lot of evidence one-way or another regarding his future as a primary ball-handler. I’ve said in the past that I believe his handle, first step, and vision were at times better than that of Player of the Year Jalen Brunson, but his decision making was nowhere close to Brunson’s. Before the draft, I was hoping Donte would come back, assume the primary role vacated by Jalen, and improve feel and vision. Clearly the Bucks see the potential in DiVincenzo today though.
5. What does Donte’s NBA career look like?
Eugene: It’s interesting. Some people may think that he has limited upside and therefore might have been a bit of a reach for the Bucks at pick No. 17. I think right off the bat, he might be a bit of a work in progress. Many Wildcat fans clamored for him to return for one more year, but the buzz surrounding his National Championship and NBA combine performances was too good to ignore. I think DiVincenzo can be a serviceable player in the NBA. He’s only gotten better with each year and there’s still room for him to grow. His athleticism and explosiveness is something that’ll catch your eye, and I think when he continues to grow skill-wise, he’ll be a dangerous player down the road. Not going to comment on multiple All-Stars, but I think he can be a reliable player. Best-case scenario: years from now, he becomes one of those guys that people will think, “wow can you believe he went 17th and all these teams passed on him?” The athleticism, big play ability carries over to the NBA, it’s just a matter of can he elevate himself mentally and physically.