Donte DiVincenzo came into the 2023-24 season with what to him might have been an unusual amount of hype and excitement surrounding his acquisition. The 26 year-old wing is and has always been a solid player but he has never been good enough to warrant the kind of expectations and anticipation he had entering the current campaign.
This year, however, New York was starting the season not having made any of the big time moves that fans and reporters had thought they might and their only other notable move was the extension of Josh Hart’s contract. Add in the fact that we’re talking about New York sports fans, who are as excitable as any other fanbase, and you have yourself two good reasons why DiVincenzo might have been hyped up more than he has at his previous stops.
Because of that, it was only natural for fans to be a little worried after his auspicious start with the Knicks.
Through his first twelve games, DiVincenzo averaged a measly 7.7 PPG on an abysmal 38.8% shooting from the field and just 34.5% from three, which was way lower than the 39.7% he shot from downtown last season. Overall, the backup guard just looked a bit uncomfortable and out of sync, which was concerning since he DiVincenzo was supposed to be a crucial piece of a second unit that was expected to be a major strength of this team.
But as is often the case when fans make judgements after just a handful of games, it looks like we may have overreacted and been quick to jump the gun. I mean shoot, we’ve done that this season with his teammate, Julius Randle!
This isn’t to say that DiVincenzo has fully acclimated to his new role and that there won’t be any setbacks or looking back. I’m positive that he will have his struggles here and there and that he will still have games where he looks a bit lost and out of sorts. But last night’s 25-point, three-rebound, three-assist, three-steal performance against the Charlotte Hornets might be what he and we all needed to be reminded of just how solid a ballplayer DiVincenzo really is.
Statistically, his numbers won’t stay at the 19.5 PPG he’s currently averaging over his last two games because 1) he’s started in both of those games and all signs point to Tom Thibodeau going back to Quentin Grimes when he’s fully healthy, 2) that figure is buoyed by maybe his best game ever, and 3) there’s absolutely no chance that DiVincenzo continues to shoot 66.7% from the field and 61.1% from three.
However, DiVincenzo's impact and effectiveness overall should continue to improve from where he was at before those two games as the season goes on and he continues to become more comfortable. I fully expect his three-point percentages to hover around the 38-to-40% range. I also predict he’ll hover around the 9-to-10 PPG going forward which is actually more impressive than what he did last season considering he played six more minutes per game than he currently averages and averaged 9.4 PPG then. The assist and rebounding numbers will likely take a bit of a dip from last season seeing as he’ll be sharing the floor with Immanuel Quickley, who is pretty ball-dominant, and both Josh Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein, who are excellent rebounders.
DiVincenzo may have and may still find some struggles in finding how to perfectly coexist on this team. Learning to play alongside ball-dominant guys like Randle, RJ Barrett, Jalen Brunson, and the aforementioned Quickley isn’t easy and can take guys a while, sometimes even a whole season. He even mentions above that it’s been challenging being the only new player in the rotation and trying to get familiar and comfortable with the system and the other players without stepping on anybody’s toes.
On a positive note, and like many other Villanova players, DiVincenzo knows how to play basketball at a high level, and knows how to win. As long as he stays healthy and continues to get 20+ minutes per game, he, much like Hartenstein did last season, should pick things up and emerge as a major contributor down the stretch.