Milwaukee Bucks: Can Donte DiVincenzo escape Bogdan Bogdanovic’s shadow?

The Milwaukee Bucks made no bones about how badly they wanted to acquire sharpshooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic this past offseason.

Having long been linked to the Bucks throughout their tense offseason, it seemed as though the Bucks had dealt for Bogdanovic, along with Justin James, ahead of the draft and free agency in a trade package that included Donte DiVincenzo, D.J. Wilson, and Ersan Ilyasova. Considering the blockbuster trade that the Bucks pulled off to acquire Jrue Holiday, it seemed too good to be true for the Bucks to assembled their most talented starting unit in franchise history.

What seemed too good to be true ended being exactly that. It was initially unclear why at first why the deal fell through, but Bogdanovic cleared the air on his end in an interview with The Athletic’s Sam Amick (subscription required) late last year, where he revealed that he had never agreed to the terms of the reported trade ahead of his restricted free agency.

The Bucks were subsequently docked of their 2022 second rounder after a tampering investigation was held by the NBA, which pointed to the precedent that the Bucks were breaking.

The conclusion of this drama-filled saga resulted in Bogdanovic signing a four-year, $72 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks. And it left the Bucks with one player in particular, that being DiVincenzo, feeling the pressure in the wake of that offseason debacle.

Donte DiVincenzo has struggled living up to expectations with the Milwaukee Bucks this season

After the trade fell through, not only did the Bucks keep DiVincenzo on the roster, but they handed him a promotion by moving him into the starting shooting guard slot. No matter how he played, the comparisons to Bogdanovic have been prevalent throughout the season in the mind of fans everywhere.

With that massive chip on his shoulder stemming from the botched trade, the guard started the season off red-hot. Scoring the basketball at a prolific rate while shooting the lights out, DiVincenzo was playing the best basketball of his career. That phenomenal start gave many the early impression that perhaps the trade getting reversed was for the best.

However, after that first month, DiVincenzo has cooled down and struggled to maintain any consistency with his production this season. Some nights he looks fantastic while showing signs of a much-improved scoring burst and ability to defend top-tier opponents. On other occasions, though, he has proven to be virtually unplayable and has proven to be a liability on both ends of the floor.

When it comes to nights that fall into the ladder category, Bogdanovic is a name that often resurfaces among the fandom. After being hit by the injury bug early, the guard has turned things around entirely and has had a fantastic season on all fronts, which still has fans thinking about what could have been had the trade gone through all these months later.

The comparisons between the two are only amplified further when the Bucks and the Hawks have gone head to head this season, just as they were Sunday night in the Bucks’ 111-104 loss to Atlanta. This one was particularly interesting because it was the first time this year when health permitted DiVincenzo to square off against Bogdanovic, although it was certainly a lopsided affair.

Offensively, DiVincenzo struggled to make relatively any impact whatsoever by finishing with just five points on 2-for-7 shooting, including 0-for-3 from behind the arc. He struggled mightily trying to get anything to drop, perfectly highlighted by a blown layup off a beautiful ball fake that will make the lowlight reel.

Meanwhile, Bogdanovic had no such issues torching the Bucks by tallying 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting, including an impressive 6-of-11 from distance. The sharpshooter’s big night propelled the Hawks over Milwaukee, which once again cast a negative light on DiVincenzo as he got outplayed, to put it lightly.

Had it been just this one game where DiVincenzo struggled to this degree, this issue would be less prominent. However, it was just the latest brutal performance from the guard, who has struggled throughout the team’s 10 games in April by averaging just 8.9 points on a lackluster 37.3 shooting from the floor and 34.6 percent from long range.

He has largely been a nonfactor throughout that span, which has been a hot topic of discussion as the team continues struggling to maintain consistency. While DiVincenzo is not solely at fault for the Bucks’ struggles, he is unquestionably a key contributor. Seeing the guy they tried to trade him for light them up for 32 points in yet another fourth quarter collapse also has tensions in the city running high.

Still, despite how grim this month has been, it is far from a forgone conclusion that DiVincenzo cannot turn things around. After all, this is just his third season in the NBA, and there were sure to be some growing pains along the way for one of the youngest players on the roster. Right now, DiVincenzo’s criticism is at an all-time high, and he must use that as fuel to right the ship with the conclusion of the regular season rapidly approaching.

While the Bogdanovic saga will continue to loom over both DiVincenzo and the franchise for the foreseeable future, some rejuvenated play down the stretch could help dial it down. The guard will play a key component in Milwaukee’s title chase heading into the postseason, and they will need him at his best.