Steve Kerr highlights Donte DiVincenzo’s versatile value to Warriors

Kerr emphasizes DiVincenzo’s versatile value for Warriors originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Donte DiVincenzos first season with the Warriorslike the rest of the team, started out unstable before soon being stranded on the bench and sustaining a left thigh injury – a season after missing the first 34 games following surgery on his left ankle.

In the first three games of the season, DiVincenzo was a combined minus-19 in plus/minus. Surprise, surprise — the tiniest of a small sample of a player on a new team then dealing with a preseason injury that sidelined him eight straight games doesn’t even tell a chapter of the full story.

Over the course of the season, DiVincenzo has gotten better and better. In 11 games in November (he returned from injury on November 11), DiVincenzo averaged 5.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 17.6 minutes per game, shooting 36 percent from the field and 35 percent from the field .1 percent shot on 3-point attempts. December then began a string of three straight months of more than 40 percent being shot from deep.

With his legs under him and Steve Kerr’s system seeming a perfect fit, DiVincenzo averaged 9.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 13 games (seven starts) in December. He now plays 28.6 minutes a night and is shooting 40.6 percent overall and 40 percent on threes. Those numbers climbed to 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in January, shooting 42.9 percent and making 40.8 percent of his shots over the arc in 13 games (four starts) in 30.3 minutes per Game.

December and January prepared him for perhaps the best month of his career. In February, DiVincenzo averaged 13.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists while playing 12 games (five starts) and averaging 28.3 minutes per game. DiVincenzo had a 53.8 shooting percentage in February and lost 50 percent of his 80 3-point attempts, giving him a true shooting percentage of 73.3.

As March draws to a close, the month hasn’t been kind to DiVincenzo. In 28 minutes per game, he averages 8.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists, shooting 35.7 percent from the floor and 30.5 percent behind the 3-point line. Most recently, he scored two points in three shots against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But on Tuesday night, in the Warriors’ awesome 120-109 comeback win over the New Orleans Pelicans, DiVincenzo immediately showed the impact he can have on a game, jumping into the fast lane to pull off a steal and a layup in opening possession. A little over two minutes later, he splashed a three, earning him more points than the previous two games combined.

“Donte was fantastic,” Kerr told reporters Thursday after the Warriors’ practice session. “He started the season at 20 minutes a night. And then, with the injuries, he started playing more. And then the absence [Andrew Wiggins] – putting him in the starting XI, making him the best attacking player early in games – he just shows you how versatile he is. I think Donte is one of those guys that helps you in so many different ways that you can fit him into any lineup. To me, that is its true value.

“He’s good at a lot of things and you can focus on each of them, whether it’s his shooting, his passing or his defense. Just the idea that he’s a complete basketball player means you can put him in any group, and that’s a really valuable trait.”

Wiggins has missed the Warriors’ last 20 games due to family reasons. In his place, DiVincenzo started averaging 9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals, often guarding the opponent’s top scorer and making 35.9 percent of his three-pointers. As Wiggins missed 15 straight games from December 5 to January 4, DiVincenzo played in 13 of those games and started nine. In Wiggins’ absence earlier this season, DiVincenzo averaged 10.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game and also made 41.1 percent of his 3-point attempts.

The 26-year-old rose with Wiggins, an All-Star a season ago and the Warriors’ second-best finisher in last year’s NBA Finals. Ditto for the two big chunks Golden State had without Steph Curry.

Between a series of obstacles, Kerr has used 23 different starting lineups this season. DiVincenzo was part of 11. Including Andre Iguodala, the Warriors have seven players up from on-off. DiVincenzo is part of this group. He ranks in the top 5 for the Warriors in total points, rebounds and assists and leads the team with 86 steals.

Put him next to guards or big men and good things will happen. DiVincenzo has a positive net rating with seven different doubles. These players are Iguodala, Curry, Anthony Lamb, Draymond Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Jordan Poole and Patrick Baldwin Jr.

Kerr has expressed his respect for DiVincenzo loud and clear since he first joined the team last offseason. The coach also understands the likely reality of DiVincenzo’s future.

“He almost went to Detroit, I think, and then he decided to sign here,” Kerr said. “And the whole idea was to rebuild his own place in the league. He got off to a great start in Milwaukee and then the injuries of the last few years set him back. This has been a hugely successful year for Donte as he has reestablished his place in the league, restoring his value.

“Obviously we hope we can keep him. We really want to keep him. I want our players to always be in the best position up front. I’m really happy for Donte that he’s put himself in a good position.”

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DiVincenzo signed a two-year, $9.3 million contract with the Warriors last summer. He far surpassed those numbers and earned the right to test the market in the coming months with a player option for the second year of his contract. As of Tuesday night, he hit a new career high with 67 games played in a season and set career bests in assists per game (3.3), steals per game (1.3) and 3-point percentage (39.6 percent).

In 32 starts, DiVincenzo has averaged 10.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists on 40.4 percent shooting and 37.8 percent 3-point shooting. In 35 games off the bench, he has averaged 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 44.8 percent shooting and 41.8 percent 3-point shooting.

After winning a fourth championship in six seasons, the Warriors lost a handful of key veterans to free reign. Proving his worth once again, Otto Porter Jr. signed a two-year, $12.3 million contract with the Toronto Raptors. Gary Payton II received an offer he couldn’t refuse, no matter how much he wanted to stay in The Bay, and signed a three-year, $26 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

As he did with GP2 last off-season, Kerr will be pushing for the front office to find a way to keep DiVincenzo. But that at a different time. In the meantime, he will continue to trust DiVincenzo in a number of positions and a handful of different responsibilities, proving his invaluable versatility.

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