If you were like me, you enjoyed some NBA basketball on Christmas Day.
There were 5 games total on the schedule (Heat vs Pelicans, Bucks vs Warriors, Nets vs Celtics, Lakers vs Mavericks, Clippers vs Nuggets). The one I was most intrigued by was the Milwaukee Bucks taking on the Golden State Warriors because I wanted to check in on Delaware’s own Donte Divincenzo.
Watching Donte put up an efficient 13 and 4, while shooting 5 of 8 from the field — and 3 of 5 from deep in a 138-99 victory, led me to see what the pulse was on Donte this year.
Donte showed he could play at the NBA level in his first two seasons in the league, averaging 8.1 points, 4.1 rebounds & 2 assists per game. Having said that, he found himself in a crossroads entering the 2020-2021 season.
Donte struggled in the “bubble” and his future with the team was uncertain as the Bucks mega-star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, had a contract that was expiring. Divincenzo was an intriguing trade piece for a package that could net the Bucks another potential star to put alongside Giannis & Kris Middleton.
Milwaukee clearly wanted to go all-in with Giannis and convince him to stay, so this offseason they tried to bring in some reinforcements to push them over the top in the Eastern Conference.
First, they traded for underrated NBA veteran Jrue Holiday. Then they attempted to lure restricted free-agent Bogdan Bogdanovic from Sacramento via a sign-and-trade deal that included Divincenzo.
For about 24 hours or so Divincenzo, D.J. Wilson and Ersan Ilyasova were headed to the capitol of California, and the Bucks were reconstructed to make another title run.
However, that deal fell through due to tampering violations by Milwaukee that eventually cost them a second round pick), and Divincenzo was once again a key part of the Bucks future. Antetokounmpo ended up signing the biggest contract in NBA history (5 years, $228 million) a few weeks later.
After the collapse of the Bogdanovic trade, Milwaukee doubled-down on their re-investment in Donte, picking up the fourth-year option for the 2021-2022 season, and implementing him into their new-look starting lineup.
Divincenzo is poised for a potential breakout season with his new starting role if he can consistently knock down the three-point shot and create offense off the drive.
Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Kris Middleton are going to attract a ton of attention defensively. And with the driving ability of Holiday and Antetokounmpo, Donte is going to have a ton of open shots and defenders out of position on close-outs, where he can take advantage of them attacking the basket.
The faith is there from the Bucks’ superstar, Antetokounmpo, as he talked about the importance of Donte stepping up for them this year, saying he had done a phenomenal job against the Warriors on Christmas.
“We need him to be confident. We need him to be aggressive. We need him to know that he’s not going to swing-swing the ball, he’s going to shoot the ball,” Antetokounmpo saids. “We want him to shoot the ball, and he’s been playing with a great confidence.”
Donte can play both ends of the floor, can make shots, pretty much do everything, Antetokounmpo said.
“And we want him to play like this all year long, and he’s been doing a great job. He’s getting his rhythm. We’re giving him confidence,” he said. “We tell him like, ‘This is what you do, you’ve got to keep doing better, you’ve got to keep doing more. You’ve got to shoot the ball when you’re open, you’ve got to create your own shots because we need more threats out there.'”
So far this season, Donte has shown he’s capable of doing so. Through the opening three games, Divincenzo has shot 57.7% from the field and 61.5% from 3-point range which is exactly what coach Mike Budenholzer wants to see. Mike Budenholzer also had high praise for the Salesianum Schoolalum after their game Friday.
“Donte’s in a good place. The catch-and-shoot three is really important to him, but I think the great thing about Donte is he’s got the ability to catch and shoot, but then he can make a quick decision and drive it and beat closeouts and get into seams and get into cracks and finish in the paint,” Budenholzer said. “So, you know, he’s one of those guys we feel can read a closeout, make good decisions, and obviously, part of that is being able to make shots. And you know, we feel like he can do that.”
If The Michael Jordan of Delaware can continue to shoot the ball well, stay consistent offensively and still be the stellar defender he has been throughout his career, he could be a huge key for Milwaukee getting over the hump and making an NBA finals appearance.