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Donte DiVincenzo’s trajectory is the toughest to reconcile among this group.
His emergence as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate is a boon for the Milwaukee Bucks, particularly on the heels of Malcolm Brogdon’s departure, but leveling up to fringe-star buzz will demand opportunity. And with so much talent at the top of the roster, it isn’t quite clear how much exposure he’ll get in the playoffs.
But DiVincenzo doesn’t need to take on a bigger role to float a higher ceiling. It just needs to be the same one.
He has spent the year filling in the cracks and crevices of Milwaukee’s perimeter rotation. He has spearheaded fast breaks, initiated pick-and-rolls, improved his off-ball beelines to the basket, broken down half-court defenses, thrown assists after leaving his feet and pestered both backcourt spots, including bigger 2s.
It’d be nice if DiVincenzo could hit more of his threes. And he might. His 34.4 percent success rate on the season is unimpressive, even when measured against last year’s 26.5 percent clip. But he’s drilling 38.6 percent of his treys since Jan. 10, including 41.5 percent of his spot-up triples.
Milwaukee needs another layer of half-court creation in case the offense bogs downor Eric Bledsoe struggles in the playoffs yet again. DiVincenzo might be the answer. His off-the-dribble jumper is spotty at best, but he’s unafraid to fire away. More importantly, he has shown the capacity to scoot by set defenses and finish at the rim.
Among the 156 players who have burned through as many drives, only eight are matching his shooting and assist percentages: Bledsoe, Jalen Brunson, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Jordan McLaughlin, T.J. McConnell and Chris Paul.
DiVincenzo leaves just as much of a mark on the other end. As I wrote when pegging him as one of the league’s most underrated players:
“His hands are agents of disorder. He contests routine passes and busts up possessions from behind while shuttling between both guard spots. Ball-handlers are coughing up the rock on 14.3 percent of the pick-and-rolls he defends, the second-highest mark on the Bucks, and he’s averaging as many deflections per 36 minutes as Jimmy Butler.”
Players without stat lines that leap off the page work from disadvantageous positions in this discussion. DiVincenzo doesn’t have the responsibility of Caris LeVert, the higher-variance outcome of Michael Porter Jr. or the singular dominant quality of OG Anunoby. But his contributions come across the board, not unlike Lonzo Ball, albeit in smaller doses.
He is very much the swing piece for a championship-level team and someone who will command a much bigger role, either with the Bucks or someone else, if his playoff performance mirrors what he’s done during the regular season.
Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference or Cleaning the Glass. Salary and cap-hold information via Basketball Insiders, Early Bird Rights and Spotrac.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @danfavale.
Matt York/Associated Press