Talked Donte DiVincenzo and his fit on the Knicks with those who covered him

The New York Knicks wanted a shooter. They got one. They preferred an extra ball handler. They got one of those too. They were looking for another tough personality. They landed that too. And they acquired it all in one player.

Over the past weekend, the Knicks finalized their deal with former Golden State Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo, signing the shooting guard to a four-year, $47 million contract.

DiVincenzo may be new to New York, but he’s hardly unknown to the rest of the NBA.

The Milwaukee Bucks drafted him No. 17 in 2018. He made a pit stop with the Sacramento Kings before going to the Warriors last summer. Now that he’s with the Knicks, let’s dive deep into his story.

Knicks beat writer Fred Katz gathered the two reporters who have covered DiVincenzo at previous stops — Warriors beat writer Anthony Slater and Bucks beat writer Eric Nehm — to discuss what the 26-year-old could offer his new team, his fit with New York, his career-best shooting performance, his biggest improvements since coming to the NBA and more.

Here’s what they had to say.

Catz: DiVincenzo signed for $47 million over four seasons, almost all with the exception of mid-level. What do you think of the contract? And what are your thoughts on his fit with the Knicks?

Later: I think it’s fair value for both sides. I view the prototypical mid-level candidate as a high-minute bench guy who can spot start and finish on any given night. DiVincenzo can and has competed for contending teams at two stops early in his career. There are a few other players who took contracts this summer close to DiVincenzo’s average annual value: Joe Ingles, Matisse Thybulle, Gabe Vincent, Coby White, Dennis Schröder. If you ranked that group, he would be at the top.

He will fit with the Knicks from a cultural standpoint. He is a smart player, competitive defender and sneaky rebounder who makes game-winning plays at the margins. The Villanova background is real. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau will love him. But it feels like there’s a positional logjam and maybe some roster overlap in New York. You’d have a better feeling about that, Fred. But I will say that DiVincenzo was in a pretty crowded backcourt last season, switching seamlessly between roles – bench, starter, on ball, off ball, used as a wing in three-guard lineups. He is a flexible piece.

Catz: There is no doubt about the tree trunk. The Knicks already have Jalen Brunson, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Josh Hart and RJ Barrett. If the roster stays as it is, they could open it up a bit by using Hart and Barrett as backup power forwards. These small lineups can provide more shooting than the Knicks could provide last season when they struggled from behind the arc. The addition of DiVincenzo will be a big part of that.

So let’s get to his 3-point shooting next, as he was better than ever from deep this past season. He shot a career-best 40 percent from 3-point range. How much of that do you think had to do with him playing alongside Hall of Famers who drew tons of attention, and how much of it was legitimate shooting improvement? The Knicks don’t have the spacers that Golden State has. Do you see his jumpers becoming more difficult outside of the Warriors offense?

Later: His shooting was one of the biggest questions going into last season. That’s why the Warriors were able to steal him on a $4.3 million buyout. He said he was ready to come back from that bad ankle injury, which is why he struggled to shoot it in his final season in Milwaukee (and during his brief stint in Sacramento). Cumulative 3-point percentage heading into last season: 33.9 percent.

He got it right. A healthier DiVincenzo made 39.7 percent of his 3s at a high volume (150 of 378) in his lone season as a Warrior. The extra space in the lineups with both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson helped. Tracking data shows that almost all of his 3s had at least four feet of space. Maybe it closes a little with the Knicks. But he has a pretty quick trigger and made 42 percent of his catch-and-shoots. I’d imagine 39.7 percent overall from 3 might be on the high side for his career, but I’d bet he’ll live in the 37 percent range for the Knicks next season.

Catz: What about another part of his offense? DiVincenzo could play when he needed to last season. How do you think he is best used as a ball handler?

Later: As a secondary creator.

Don’t put him at the top and design pick-and-roll touches for him. It is not an efficient way to score. But he can grab and go with a rebound, make a play late on the clock if it has swung his direction and also run a more comprehensive set when needed. The Warriors start Curry off the ball a ton, which meant DiVincenzo would bring the ball up in certain lineups. He is an unspectacular but sure ball handler. Warriors coach Steve Kerr trusted him, which is saying a lot.

Catz: DiVincenzo isn’t very long and he’s not a shutdown one-on-one defender, but he’s eager. He is sneaky in passing, as I wrote about earlier this week. He gets stolen. He could come out at halftime last season. The Knicks play a certain type of defense; The Tom Thibodeau specialty, if you will. They want to take the paint away. They collapse in from the corners whenever dribblers infiltrate the pitch and have to get onto shooters in a hurry.

Eric, I’m curious to get your take on this. DiVincenzo has played with a physical rim protector before in Milwaukee. How do you see him fitting into a defensive system like the one the Knicks have?

Take: DiVincenzo has a nose for the ball and strong instincts, so despite having short arms, he typically does a nice job wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. He jumps passing lanes well and often deflects dribbles and passes as a help defender, which has led to a strong steal rate throughout his career.

It may be a slightly underrated skill, but DiVincenzo is an elite defensive rebounder. He’s athletic enough to battle and grab rebounds from among the trees around the rim. This made him a solid matchup for Brook Lopez because Lopez was free to try to block and influence shots because he relied on DiVincenzo to help clean up the glass. It seems possible that DiVincenzo could do similar things with the Knicks, especially after seeing another elite defensive rebounder like Josh Hart succeed last season.

Catz: What would you say are the skills DiVincenzo has improved the most since entering the NBA? What is it that he still needs to develop the most?

Take: As a rookie, DiVincenzo shot just 27 percent from the 3-point line in limited action before suffering a left foot injury that forced him to miss the second half of that season. He then shot 34 percent from 3, but when he took over as the Bucks’ full-time starter in the 2020-21 season, he made 38 percent from 3. Aside from an injury-plagued start to the 2021-22 season, he struggled with almost everything offensively, including his shot, DiVincenzo has been a consistently good shooter.

As for what he needs to improve, DiVincenzo is athletic and shifty enough to get to the basket, but he just hasn’t been a strong enough finisher throughout his career. Last season, he made 63 percent of his shots at the rim, which was a massive improvement for him, but still roughly league average for his position, according to Cleaning the Glass. In the 2020-21 season, DiVincenzo made just 54 percent of his attempts at the rim and was even worse in the 2021-22 season, making just 46 percent of his shots at the rim with the Bucks and Kings.

Catz: Tell me something funny or interesting you’ve learned over the years about DiVincenzo that I don’t know.

Take: While I don’t know what jersey number he will wear in New York, DiVincenzo once told me he wore zero in Milwaukee (and subsequently Sacramento and Golden State) because he idolized Russell Westbrook growing up and always felt that he could connect his own game with Westbrook’s.

(Photo of Donte DiVincenzo guarding Jalen Brunson: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Leave a Comment