Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo will be playoff X-factor

Milwaukee Bucks basketball is almost back, and how Donte DiVincenzo plays will have a huge impact on the Bucks’ championship chances.

The NBA bubble will be starting up soon, and the Milwaukee Bucks will be resuming their promising season. There are almost countless question marks that come with this season, on the court and off, but all Milwaukee can do is control what they can.

Obviously, the biggest thing they can control is how they play when they’re on the court, and their roster is championship-caliber. However, there are other very talented teams, and the way the ball bounces may decide many playoff games and even series. Fortunately, when the ball is loose, Donte DiVincenzo is one of the best in the league at getting it back.

It won’t just be his ability to hustle and retrieve loose balls that make him the X-Factor, though.  Shooting from the outside, continuing his impressive rebounding, and creating turnovers on defense are the three things he needs to do well to propel the Bucks to another level.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ offensive attack is very dependent on having shooters around Giannis Antetokounmpo that he can create open looks for. They drafted DiVincenzo with the hope that he could be a reliable shooter as he shot 37.8 percent from three-point range in college at Villanova. In his rookie year, shortened by heel bursitis, he had trouble adjusting to the farther NBA line and shot only 26.5 percent from deep in his 27 games. This season, he showed that he is capable of knocking down shots more consistently, hitting 34.4 percent of his three-point attempts, just below league-average of 35.7.

DiVincenzo is by no means a knock-down shooter, but he doesn’t have to be. What killed the Bucks in the playoffs last year against the Raptors was awful shooting, not just average or below-average shooting. It was Eric Bledsoe, Nikola Mirotic, and to a slightly lesser extent Ersan Ilyasova, and Brook Lopez shooting uncharacteristically poorly that downed them. All four were around league average or above, and then all fell apart in that series – Lopez shooting .055 lower than his average and the other three all shooting at least .085 percent lower with Mirotic and Bledsoe over ten percent worse than their season average.

Everyone needs to shoot the ball, and it’s a team effort, but DiVincenzo being a reliable kick out option would be huge for loosening some defensive pressure off of Giannis. As one of the first guys off the bench, he needs to create that spark to spur a run and hitting a couple of shots right off the bench could swing a game. That’s not the only way he can create a spark, though.

His offensive rebounding prowess can be contagious and liven up the whole arena, even if there’s no one there to watch it in these playoffs. Despite being only 6’4″, he is adept at carving out space for himself and positioning well enough to grab an average of one offensive rebound per game. Even more impressive is that he ranks 9th among guards who have played at least 40 games this season in contested offensive rebounds per game and tenth in contested offensive rebound percentage among the same group.

Even when he isn’t in perfect position, he has great athleticism that lets him leap over other players to grab rebounds or at least tap them out. He doesn’t get any statistical credit for offensive rebound tap outs, but if he did, we’d probably see that he saves the Milwaukee Bucks an extra possession or two per game in that area.

Here’s a clip of him at Villanova doing what he does so well, not being in great position, but seeing that his defender is casually waiting under the basket and taking advantage of the situation to steal the rebound and two points.

This hustle also comes into play on the defensive end of the floor. He has fantastic quick defensive hands that opposing players need to be aware of at all times as he’s constantly getting in passing lanes and harassing ball-handlers. This is evidenced by the fact that he’s leading the team in both deflections per game at 2.3 and deflections per-36 minutes at 3.6.

Along with his deflections, he secures steals too. His 1.4 steals per game ranks him first on the Bucks. Not only that, but he’s doing it in only 23 minutes per game. His 2.1 steals per 36 minutes are sixth in the league, making him one of the most efficient players in the league in creating turnovers.

DiVincenzo could find himself guarding some of the better players on each team that the Milwaukee Bucks face on their road to the championship. In the second round, which will likely be against the Miami Heat, where he could face scorers like Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, and Tyler Herro.

In the conference finals, he would potentially match up with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, or Marcus Smart if it’s the Celtics or the likes of Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell if it’s the Raptors that make it that far. Finally, in the NBA finals, he could see dynamic scorer Lou Williams of the Clippers or Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers.

None of those are easy covers, and he’ll definitely have to face some of them and hold his own if the Bucks want to continue to advance in the playoffs. His ability to do so is what makes him so valuable. He never backs down from those kinds of challenges and is always looking to poke the ball loose no matter who he’s defending.

If he can shoot the ball like he has all season, create energy and extra possessions with his effort on the offensive glass, not to mention defend some of the best players on opposing teams well while continuing to create turnovers and deflections, the Bucks will have a great chance to go all the way this season.

Those abilities make him such a valuable asset for this team, and they need him to be on the floor playing his game and maybe even closing out games instead of Wesley Matthews as he’s done multiple times this season. When he’s on the floor, the Milwaukee Bucks are a better team, and he’ll finally get his first taste of playoff basketball soon. What he does with his first playoff minutes will go a long way in dictating how much damage the Bucks can do in these playoffs.