Milwaukee Bucks: How Donte DiVincenzo won over Jon Horst pre-draft

MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 25: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 25: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Donte DiVincenzo is thriving with the Milwaukee Bucks this season, but how did he end up landing with the team in the first place? The answer is typical of DiVincenzo’s attitude.

Fresh off of a career-high 19 point showing in the Milwaukee Bucks’ Thursday night win over the Boston Celtics, Donte DiVincenzo’s stock has never been higher in the NBA.

After injury significantly curtailed his rookie season, DiVincenzo is enjoying something of a fresh start this season, and the Bucks are benefiting as he’s become an integral part of the rotation for a team that currently boasts what’s far and away the best record in the league.

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With that considered, the selection of Donte DiVincenzo with the 17th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft is increasingly looking like quite a shrewd and important decision for the Bucks.

Thanks to the reporting of Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix on Friday, new details are continuing to emerge about how exactly DiVincenzo came to be Milwaukee’s pick on that night.

Mannix detailed how DiVincenzo had long been coveted by the Bucks, but ultimately convinced general manager Jon Horst and head coach Mike Budenholzer of his suitability by displaying his work ethic and character in playing in the Draft Combine, playing through injury in his group workout in Milwaukee, and then impressing in his interview with the Bucks.

"“For years, Bucks GM Jon Horst tracked DiVincenzo. He admired DiVincenzo’s decision to play in the draft combine, a choice surefire first round picks rarely make. He recalled inviting DiVincenzo to a group workout before the draft. Several likely first-rounders, including Grayson Allen and Jerome Robinson, participated. DiVincenzo was battling an injury. Horst recalls DiVincenzo’s desperately trying to get into the workout anyway. DiVincenzo’s sitdown with Horst and Budenholzer went so well, Horst said, that both left the room saying the same thing: This is our guy.”"

That all meshes with Horst’s comments from Donte’s introductory press conference, where the GM explained his decision to select Delaware native too:

"“Donte was a guy that when we went through our process, not only this season but last season, the video work we’ve done, bringing him here to Milwaukee, there were a number of things that stood out to us about him.Obviously on the floor, the skill-set he has. He can pass, handle and shoot. He’s a very good athlete. He has positional size, and he’s a great competitor as [Coach] Bud has mentioned.Off the court, it’s clear he came from a great family, had a great upbringing, is a man of high character. We think he’s going to be a tremendous teammate and that he’s going to push our guys to be even more competitive than we already are.”"

Mannix also provided further detail of the Bucks’ pre-draft enthusiasm for DiVincenzo in conversation with my co-site expert Jordan Treske on Twitter, noting that Milwaukee was convinced their target would be off the board by the time it was their turn to pick at 17.

For those who remember exactly how that draft played out, the Bucks’ concern over missing out on Donte may also explain some of the more frantic details from that night.

In a strange break of usual NBA protocol, Atlanta Hawks GM Travis Schlenk revealed the morning after that draft that he was engaged in a trade with the Bucks for the 17th pick that would have seen the 19th pick and an additional pick sent to Milwaukee. According to Schlenk, though, the deal fell apart when word leaked that DiVincenzo was the Bucks’ target, and the Hawks knew they were guaranteed to have one of their two targets fall to 19.

In hindsight, it’s still possible that the Bucks missed out on getting their own target in addition to an extra pick, but it does re-frame this failed trade negotiation slightly. What Schlenk’s comments had once painted as a combination of misfortune and potential ineptitude on the Bucks’ part, may instead have been evidence of Milwaukee’s scurry for contingencies in thinking they were going to miss out on their top target.

Even though Atlanta may not have been interested in taking DiVincenzo at 19, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Spurs wouldn’t have posed a threat to Milwaukee at 18, if the Bucks and Hawks had swapped picks. It’s entirely possible that what Schlenk viewed as a leak on the night, was immaterial to the Bucks as they were about to get what they wanted from their pick anyway.

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Either way, with DiVincenzo really hitting his stride in his second year in the NBA, it’s a case of all’s well that ends well for the Bucks.