Assessing Donte DiVincenzo’s season debut for the Milwaukee Bucks

Apr 27, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports /

Following many months of rehab, we were all prepared for the 2021-22 season debut for Donte DiVincenzo. However, the Milwaukee Bucks guard was then entered into health and safety protocols, so we all had to collectively wait another 10 days.

DiVincenzo finally made his much-anticipated return to the lineup yesterday in the Bucks’ 117-113 win over the Boston Celtics. He didn’t play a ton (around 15 minutes) and that was more or less the expectation coming into the game for me.

His final line wasn’t much with only three points on 1-of-4 shooting to go along with two rebounds. But as is the case with DiVincenzo, there’s always a little more to the story than the box score, so let’s go over how his debut went.

Assessing Donte DiVincenzo’s debut for the Milwaukee Bucks

The obvious caveat here is that DiVincenzo hasn’t played a professional basketball game since he initially suffered the injury back in the first round of the playoffs. There’s going to be some rust, but we can still take a couple of things away.

Let’s start with the main topic, his shooting/scoring. He nailed one of his two 3-point attempts for his only points of the game and missed a couple of layups. The layups were the cause of many jokes among Bucks fans on Twitter, with many saying that the missed layups were a sign that DiVincenzo was officially back.

There was even a moment on the ABC broadcast with Jrue Holiday mic’d up where he told DiVincenzo to dunk the ball instead of settling for layups.

His first miss came in the first quarter, where he made a cut and received a pass off the inbound. The only protection at the rim was his defender, Payton Pritchard, who is 6’1″ and 195 pounds. There’s no way to sugarcoat this one, it’s a bad miss. It was a great cut to get open and the pressure from Pritchard shouldn’t have been enough to cause a miss.

His second miss came a couple of minutes later where he did a great job moving off the ball and finding an opening for Holiday to pass him the ball under the basket. It was a bit of a tough reverse layup, but there was even less pressure at the rim this time than when he went up against Pritchard, and he still missed it.

Again, he’s had a lot of time off, but this isn’t a new occurrence for DiVincenzo. He shot just over 52 percent on layups last season (per, which is a low number relatively speaking. It’s not a good sign when fans associate you with missing layups and his first game back won’t help that.

His next shot attempt was a 3-pointer that came off of a nice skip pass from Khris Middleton to the left corner. He was open with the closest defender being Pritchard, who was the low man and ready to help on a Middleton drive. DiVincenzo missed short, but that could come from the long layoff.

His made 3 came off of good movement off the ball to get into a spot that both made his defender (Jaylen Brown) not be able to double Middleton and also give a passing lane. It was a nice 26-footer at the top of the arc that hit nothing but net.

The mechanics on his jumper looked good and that’s probably the part of his offense I’m least worried about. An injury like he suffered, there’s some worry about his burst and lift, but we’ve seen the pre-game videos of him dunking, so that won’t be a concern. Hopefully, the blown layups aren’t a trend again this year and it was a product of him being a bit rusty.

Overall with his offense, I liked the movement to get himself into good positions for layups, but he needs to convert them to make defenses pay for not paying attention.

Defensively, it was a solid performance. He was the closest defender on six Celtics attempts and they shot 1-of-6 on those looks. Without going through the film, it’s hard to say how much of an impact he had on those misses.

However, there weren’t any plays where I felt as though he got beat badly off the dribble or allowed his man to get by him. Some of those were likely jumpers off the catch, which is always hard to determine how much of an impact a defender truly has on those.

He also had his trademark gambles for steals that left him out of position on a couple of possessions, but the Bucks defense is adept at scrambling and rotating so they were able to recover for the most part.

How you view DiVincenzo as a defender will come down to how you feel about those gambles. He gets a ton of deflections and steals by picking off passes, but those can also lead to open looks. He’s a good one-on-one defender that will only help the Bucks, in the long run, this season.

All in all, it was a solid if unspectacular debut for the fourth-year guard. He’s in competition with Grayson Allen for the starting shooting guard role and is in a contract year, so there’s a lot on the line for him.

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Here’s to hoping that DiVincenzo can knock off the rust in their upcoming games against the Orlando Magic, a team with a clear motive to not compete for a playoff spot this season (and also ravaged by injuries and COVID protocols).