For three of his first four games this season, the notation after Donte DiVincenzo’s name in the Milwaukee Bucks scorebook was one no player wants to see: “DNP – coach’s decision.”
DiVincenzo, the former Delaware player of the year from Salesianum School, was a first-round pick of the Bucks in last year’s NBA draft and he started the season well and was part of the Bucks’ regular rotation.
Then he was hit with a nagging foot injury (bilateral heel bursitis in his left foot) that saw him bouncing around from the Bucks to the Wisconsin Herd, Milwaukee’s G League team and, eventually, the season-ending injury list.
All in all, a frustrating, albeit educational, year for DiVincenzo, who played in 27 games with the Bucks and averaged 4.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. And even though he’s healthy now, he’s been pushed to the end of the bench for the Bucks, one of the favorites to compete for the NBA championship – Milwaukee had the best regular-season record in the league last season (60-22).
DiVincenzo has seen only mop-up action in one game so far and he didn’t take a single shot in that one. It’s been a question of numbers, because the Bucks have a bunch of guards and all of them have a lot more experience than the kid from Newark. They lost star Malcolm Brogdon when he signed with Indiana in the off-season, but the Bucks signed two veteran guards – Wesley Matthews, who is in his 11th NBA season, and former Sixer Kyle Korver, who is in his 17th. The other Bucks guards also have plenty of experience – Eric Bledsoe (10 years), George Hill (11 years) and Pat Connaughton (five years).
DiVincenzo didn’t help himself in the Bucks’ preseason. He was on the floor for an average of 20 minutes a game during the exhibitions and averaged 10 points per game, but he didn’t shoot well – he made 18 of 47 field goal attempts (38.3 percent) and 5 of 22 from three-point range (22.7 percent). Both of those averages are well below average, and with all the depth the Bucks have at guard, DiVincenzo will have to wait for another chance to prove himself.
The Bucks certainly haven’t given up on him yet – last week, Milwaukee picked up the third-year option on DiVincenzo’s contract, which means he’ll earn around $3 million in 2020-21, after making about $5.3 million in his first two seasons.
That once again illustrates how smart DiVincenzo and his family and advisors were when he opted for the NBA draft after he did his Superman act in the 2018 NCAA Championship Game, when he scored 31 points to lead Villanova to the national title and was named the tournaments’ most valuable player.
DiVincenzo had been a good player on a really good team before he became an overnight sensation. Certainly, nobody thought he would be an NBA first-round draft pick and an instant millionaire when his last season at Villanova began. Then he had the game of his life and followed up that with a spectacular showing at the NBA pre-draft camp and, just like that, DiVincenzo was a first-round pick, only the second player from Delaware to ever be selected in the first round – Newark High and Temple star Terrence Stansbury was chosen 15th overall by the Dallas Mavericks in 1984 and was immediately traded to the Indiana Pacers.
Imagine if DiVincenzo didn’t have that magical night in the NCAA Tournament and had come back for another season at Villanova. Imagine if DiVincenzo had suffered the same foot problems at Villanova that he did last year with the Bucks, and don’t forget he missed the last half of his freshman season with a broken bone in his other foot. Not only would he have not been a first-round pick, he wouldn’t have been drafted at all and right now might be getting ready for yet another college season or playing in some league in Europe or Asia.
So, if there was ever any doubt about whether he made the right decision…
Now, DiVincenzo has to take his game to another level, just like he did at Salesianum and Villanova. Even though the Bucks have a lot of guards ahead of him, they’re all older and their NBA days are numbered. So, Donte DiVincenzo will get another chance to prove himself and make sure the days of “DNP – coach’s decision” are a thing of the past.