With one off-season acquisition, the New York Knicks addressed their needs for extra shooting, ball handling, and defense. Shrewd move, Leon!
Donte DiVincenzo declined his $4.7 million player option with the Golden State Warriors and entered free agency on July 1, 2023. He promptly signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Knicks on July 8, 2023, which will pay him $10.9 million for the upcoming season. This reunites him with former Villanova championship teammates Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, and Ryan Arcidiacono. The Wildcats won titles in 2016 and 2018, and DDV was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2018.
Like cats, these Nova kids are quite fond of grooming each other. Stefan Bondy wrote in the NY Post, “Josh Hart even negotiated his contract extension in such a way to facilitate DiVincenzo’s signing.” With Arcidiacono, Donte is the player whose name I am most likely to misspell this season. My dumb fingers are dyslexic with his vowels. To be safe, I will defer to the DDV acronym often, and, geez, if I mention Arci more than five times this season, it will be a sign that the Knicks are lottery-bound.
Let’s talk DDV.
Wikipedia says: Born in Newark, Delaware . . . led the Salesianum School to two consecutive state championships . . . junior year, played basketball in the Nike EYBL for Team Final . . . senior year, averaged 22.9 points, nine rebounds and four assists . . . named Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association’s Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year in 2015.
The Milwaukee Bucks selected DDV 17th in the 2018 NBA Draft. Injuries limited his rookie season, but he had a positive second year and shined on defense. During Milwaukee’s 2021 NBA championship season, he started all 66 games in which he appeared.
A crazy four-team trade (you try summarizing it) landed him in Sacramento on February 10, 2022. He played 25 games for the Kings, then jumped ship for the Golden State Warriors on a two-year, $9.3 million deal in July 2022.
With the Warriors, DDV averaged 9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists and started 36 of 72 games. His time in Golden State ended primarily because he had become too expensive to re-sign. What’s more, Steve Kerr envisioned DDV as a small-big, but that plan fizzled. By year’s end, DDV had essentially become a backup point guard with Gary Payton II fitting better into Kerr’s scheme.
Squint at Donte and you’ll see shades of T.J. McConnell. The 6’ 4”, 203 lbs 3&D guard has a peppy motor and active hands in the passing lanes. Though he sports an average wingspan (6’6”), he rates in the 92nd percentile for deflections and boasts a career defensive rating of 109.7. He is capable of staying in front of his man and can guard the entire floor, generating steals and fast breaks by tiring out the opponent.
DDV’s career averages are nine points, 4.6 rebounds, and almost three assists per game. He has shot 42% from the field and 36% from deep over 273 regular-season games. In Golden State, he achieved a career-high 59% TS, averaged 14.3 points per 40 minutes, and shot 39.7% from 3-point range.
With the ball in his hands, he is capable of scoring for himself or threading the needle through traffic to catch an open teammate. His career high for a game is 24 points (Pelicans, February 25, 2021), and he racked up 11 dimes versus the Raptors once. He rates in the 85th percentile for passing.
Not only a smart player with good vision, his flexibility and athleticism allow him to twist mid-air and make a hard shot or finish at the rim. He’s very portable—although not to the extent that Kerr had hoped—and welcomes contact.
Expect to see DDV drive and kick a lot. Last season, he passed on 67% of his drives. According to NBA.com, that’s “the highest rate among 271 players with at least 100 total drives last season and the highest rate for a player with at least 200 total drives in the 10 seasons of tracking data.”
In addition to shooting better from deep, DiVincenzo shot much better in the paint last season (55.6%) than he did the season prior (40%, fourth worst among 328 players with at least 100 attempts). But he’s much more likely to pass than try to finish against bigger defenders.
Among 130 players who attempted at least 50 catch-and-shoot 3s and at least 50 pull-up 3s, RJ Barrett (32.3% vs. 19.6%), Quentin Grimes (40.0% vs. 29.1%) and Jalen Brunson (47.6% vs. 38.0%) had the 10th, 16th and 21st biggest differentials between how well they shot on catch-and-shoot attempts and how well they shot on pull-ups. (DiVincenzo had the third biggest, 42.4% vs. 22.6%.) And while the Knicks had a top-five offense in the regular season, they were the only team to shoot less than 30% from beyond the arc in a 2023 playoff series, doing so in both of their series.
Though he isn’t particularly excellent at anything (by NBA standards), Donte can contribute a lot to the team. Golden State wasn’t thrilled by his postseason performance, however. Over 13 games, he averaged 5.5 points and shot 38% from the floor, and 34% from deep. Given that he hadn’t quite gelled with Kerr’s plans and dropped off in the postseason, it’s clear why they wouldn’t pay him what New York offered.
On Monday he played his first game with the Knicks, an exhibition scrimmage. In 23 minutes, he shot 2-of-8 from the field and 2-of-5 from downtown. Eight points, three rebounds, two assists, and a couple of nice passes.
Aside from games when a teammate’s injury requires more from DDV, Monday’s performance—though just preseason—seems a predictor of what we can expect this season. He won’t spend much time as second unit point guard with Immanuel Quickley in the lead, and he’ll divy up shot attempts with IQ and Josh Hart. Eight points, a couple of assists, a steal, and a deflection—that’s about what we can hope for. But the defense. The thought of it makes my stomach growl. With IQ, Hart, and DDV cutting it up, the Knicks should improve upon last season’s 19th of 30 defensive ranking. They could close in on the top ten.
Bondy’s aforementioned article quotes DDV: “I know if we’re winning games, everybody is gonna eat. […] The young guys, the old guys last longer in the league, the coaches, everybody eats when everybody is selfless, and the ultimate goal is to win games. So, that’s always been my motto. Going on sixth year in the league, so it’s working so far.”
That’s the right attitude. It’s the attitude of a player who knows what it takes to win on the collegiate and NBA levels. I can’t wait to see this Cat play in meaningful games at MSG and, who knows, maybe raise another trophy.
Further reading: Steph Curry gushes over former teammate Donte DiVincenzo.