Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo is a Most Improved dark horse

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

He’s unlikely to win, but a strong second season with the Milwaukee Bucks could lead Donte DiVincenzo to get Most Improved Player votes.

After cleaning up at the NBA awards last year, the Milwaukee Bucks will again figure prominently whenever the end of season accolades are given out for whatever the 2019-20 season proves to be.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is in pole position to repeat as Most Valuable Player, while he may also add Defensive Player of the Year honors this time around. Mike Budenholzer will also be at the forefront of the Coach of the Year race as he looks to join an elite club of coaches who’ve won that award on three occasions. And George Hill should also draw some consideration for the Sixth Man of the Year award based on his tremendous season coming off the bench.

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Not to be lost in that shuffle, though, is Donte DiVincenzo. The 23-year-old is unlikely to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award over the likes of Luka Doncic, Trae Young, or Jayson Tatum, but his colossal progress in his second year as a professional has made him a key cog for the NBA’s best team, and certainly placed him in that larger discussion.

DiVincenzo may yet finding himself picking up some votes for that award when ballots are revealed at the end of the season, possibly setting the table for what could be even greater progress down the road.

Offering a clear sense of his standing in that race, and his growing reputation in NBA circles, DiVincenzo was among the players discussed when Zach Lowe and Coach David Thorpe picked out their 10 leading contenders for the award on the Lowe Post Podcast in recent days.

Outlining just how significant the leap DiVincenzo has taken from year one to year two is, Thorpe noted:

"“He was one of the worst rookies in the league last year. I wasn’t sure the guy was going to make it.”"

Thorpe continued by detailing just how essential Donte has been to the Bucks’ ability to kick on and improve from year to year too.

"“He was lost, position, as a player. And now he’s a key player on by far the best team in the league on both ends. He’s really changed his game, became a shooter, became a defender, makes simple plays. If he isn’t this good, Milwaukee isn’t this good. It’s simple as that.”"

Lowe was in agreement with the idea of DiVincenzo being deserving of consideration for the award, taking a moment to highlight the potential jump he could yet make if he’s to improve as a shooter, while also hailing his instincts overall.

"“If that jumper ever really comes…Like it’s 34 percent this year, that’s good, but he gets a lot of great looks as everybody does playing with Giannis. It’s sort of the same, the Pat Connaughton syndrome, you think Pat Connaughton is a really good shooter and then you look at his numbers and it’s not quite there. But I’ll tell you what Donte DiVincenzo is: he’s a basketball player. The guy just knows how to play. He makes plays on both ends. He has a very good, intuitive sense of when to help, and when to recover, and when to slice in for a rebound on both ends of the floor. He’s doing helpful stuff all the time.”"

Of course, not mentioned by either Lowe or Thorpe are the injury issues that curtailed DiVincenzo’s rookie season, but it can’t be disputed that his production was underwhelming outside of that.

Not only has Donte played more minutes per game, and stepped up into a role of much greater prominence within the team, but he’s also upped his production across the board in that time too.

That’s captured by looking at his per 36 minutes, where DiVincenzo stepped up from 11.5 points to 14.6, 5.7 rebounds to 7.6, 2.7 assists to 3.6, and 1.1 steals to 2.1. Of course, that goes without mentioning the jump in DiVincenzo’s true shooting percentage from 50.7 percent to 57 percent too.

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DiVincenzo’s breakout season has been a major boost for the Bucks this season, and he may yet get some recognition for that when ballots are cast for Most Improved Player of the Year.