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Knicks Sharpshooter in Contention for Most Improved Player

Apr 12, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) dribbles up court during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Despite all his success at Villanova, not much was expected from Donte DiVincenzo. Despite winning the Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2018, most mock drafts had him in the 20-25 range. Now here he is, reunited with his Nova teammates en route to the best season of his career. So, should Donte DiVincenzo win the Most Improved Player of the Year?

Knicks Sharpshooter in Contention for Most Improved Player

DiVincenzo’s Impact

It’s not hard to understand why he shouldn’t be in contention. DiVincenzo is averaging career-highs in points, 3-point shooting, and traditional box-plus-minus. He’s scoring 6 points more than last year (9.4 to 15.4) and is doing all this on a career-high usage rate and minutes. His in-season jump has been more profound. Since Julius Randle‘s injury, DiVincenzo has averaged the 5th most minutes per game in the league and averages 20 points per game alongside 1.6 steals and 0.6 blocks.

Despite the games missed by Randle and OG Anunoby the Knicks have found a way to win largely because of DiVincenzo’s scoring ability. He’s been the Knicks’ primary ball-handler when Brunson sits, and his offensive impact has kept the Knicks afloat. His ability to run around the floor and knock down threes has proven to be invaluable, especially when New York rolled out the two big lineups to add defense in the paint. His spacing on the floor has allowed Brunson to put his head down and get to his spots without having to worry about crowding in the paint. DiVincenzo’s case for the Most Improved Player award was built on the back of Randle and Anunoby’s injury. DiVincenzo would not have gotten these opportunities if the Knicks didn’t need an offensive threat besides Jalen Brunson.

Comparing DiVincenzo to Most Improved Player Candidates

DiVincenzo has accumulated 6.6 win shares this season compared to 4.2 last year. His jump of 2.4 is the same as Tyrese Maxey‘s year-to-year change, and greater than Coby White‘s jump of 1.3 According to LEBRON (a catch-all metric), DiVincenzo had a net-negative season last year, with a -0.52 adjusted plus-minus. This season, he’s at 0.96, a 1.48 plus-minus increase. Maxey has him beat in this with a 3.74 jump from last year. White, on the other hand, has moved backward, decreasing his plus-minus by 0.64. DiVincenzo averages the fewest points out of the trio, but is the most efficient, with an effective field goal % of 58.4. DiVincenzo is the best perimeter defender out of the 3, allowing players to make just 35.7% of their 3-pointers. Maxey is the best interior defender, holding opponents to 61.6% within 6 feet.

Why Should DiVincenzo Win it?

Tyrese Maxey has already been in the Most Improved Player conversation early in his career. In his 2nd year in the league, Maxey jumped from 8 points per game to 17.5. That was his moment to win the award. His upward trajectory has been steady, but his leap this year was expected. The Sixers let Harden go because they believed in Maxey, who had averaged over 20 points per game last season. Harden’s absence meant more for Maxey, and his numbers rose as expected.

Coby White‘s most improved player case is built around an abysmal 2022-23 season. He averaged just 9.7 points per game last year in a decreased role. That season makes his current leap more impressive than it is, especially when compared to his initial seasons in the NBA. In his 1st three seasons in the NBA, White averaged almost 14 points per game. His per 36-minute stats look very similar across his career, and his 18.8 points per 36 minutes played is not a huge uptick.

DiVincenzo was an average NBA role player off the bench for a good team. His numbers before this season were ordinary. His highest-scoring season was 10.4 points with the Bucks when they won the championship. He had already played for 3 NBA teams in 5 years, and the Knicks were his 4th. He came into the season as a backup shooting guard to Quentin Grimes, and nobody expected much from him. Instead, he has become a high-caliber starter this season and has proven to be a valuable asset on a Knicks team that has suffered injuries throughout the season. His per 36-minute numbers show a 7-point leap in scoring average from last season, and his offensive efficiency has been through the roof. Among guards with over 65 games, DiVincenzo’s effective field goal % ranks near the top 20.


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