Donte DiVincenzo is now starting and Quentin Grimes is coming off the bench. What does it mean for the present and the future?

It’s no secret that Quentin Grimes, the Knicks’ incumbent starting shooting guard coming into the year, has struggled since the 2023-24 season started. His offensive difficulties got so bad that after a seven-game stretch of single-digit scoring, coach Tom Thibodeau did something very uncharacteristic and changed his starting lineup, inserting former Golden State Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo and demoting Grimes. But is that shake-up the right decision for the Knicks? Or should Grimes, once he gets his groove back, return to the starting five?

DiVincenzo, who agreed to a four-year, $50 million contract in the off-season, has now started four times for New York (13-9), twice when Grimes sat out due to a sprained left wrist and twice since being officially added to the starting lineup, to mixed personal production results.

In his first game as a starter, DiVincenzo showed out in the Knicks’ blowout victory against the Wizards, putting up 14 points, four rebounds, and one assist, with 12 of these 14 points a result of his four three-pointers. In his second game as a starter, DiVincenzo caught fire with 25 points, three assists, three rebounds, three steals, and one block against the Charlotte Hornets. 21 of these 25 points were made through 7-10 three-pointers.

However, in DiVincenzo’s third game as a starter against the Boston Celtics last Friday night, Grimes produced significantly better while coming off the bench. DiVincenzo played for a total of 22 minutes, dropping six points, four rebounds, and two assists. He was 2-5 from behind the arc, but only shot 2-6 from the field. On the other hand, Grimes dropped 13 points and two assists in 19 minutes, knocking down three of his seven threes and shooting 5-10 overall.

In DiVincenzo’s fourth game starting, he managed just three points in 19 minutes, shooting 1-2 from the field with five assists, four rebounds, and one block against the Raptors. Meanwhile, Grimes continued to excel in his second game as a reserve, scoring 19 points in 27 minutes while shooting 7-11 from the field and 5-7 from beyond the arc. It would seem that this is a good look for Grimes. He is slowly getting back into rhythm, shooting more efficiently, and tallying up a significant amount of points to help the Knicks’ offense. 

Overall, DiVincenzo is averaging 8.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists so far for the Knicks this regular season while hitting a career-high 42.7% of his threes. Although the Italian was just recently acquired in the off-season, he’s already found his place as the team’s second-leading three-point shooter just behind Jalen Brunson (44.6%) for the Knicks due to his phenomenal catch-and-shoot abilities. Weirdly, he’s also shooting a career-low 68.4% on free throws, a quirk that is not ideal for a team currently ranked 28th in leaguewide free throw percentage.

DiVincenzo’s confidence has never been in doubt. When it comes to his pull-up jumper, he is nowhere near hesitant. He triggers his shots simultaneously, punishing the defender in front of him. The Big Ragu’s combination of quickness, efficiency, and accuracy can easily be seen as a huge advantage to the Knicks’ prolificacy.

In transition, DiVincenzo is a productive cutter, creating easy shots for himself and others as an off-ball player. His quick decision-making abilities and boldness help him slice through the key and exploit his athleticism to get to the rim.

Defensively, DiVincenzo is a great asset beside the two Knicks’ centers. He’s a very active player, a hard worker who always hustles for the ball. He darts around screens and plays passing lanes beautifully, a large part of why he’s so proficient in forcing turnovers. As a turnover machine, he’s currently third behind Robinson and Hartenstein. Despite his modest minutes load, he already leads the team in deflections. 

When DiVincenzo shares the floor with Brunson and Randle and Grimes is on the bench, he shoots 50.9% from the field and 50% from three on 12.4 field goal attempts per 36 minutes, but despite his shooting success, the Knicks’ net rating in that time is -3.4 in 165 minutes, per NBA Advanced Stats.

When Grimes shares the floor with Brunson and Randle and DiVincenzo is on the bench, Grimes is only shooting 38.3% from the field and 38% from three on 8.9 FGA per 36 minutes, and the Knicks’ net rating is -2.3 in 382 minutes. 

So, although DiVincenzo’s individual numbers look better than those of Grimes, the Knicks’ net rating is better when Grimes shares the floor with Brunson and Randle. Now, fans are well aware that Grimes can be a benefit to the offense once he is in rhythm, but what about defensively?

Defensively, Grimes is extremely valuable as a ball pest, excelling specifically at on-ball defense. Similar to DiVincenzo, his athleticism and dexterity pose a huge threat against the perimeter offense. He is excellent at reading and reacting to the offense and adds extra support when his teammates need help. Like DiVincenzo too, his combination of hustle and ability to predict his opponent’s next move produces smart steals for him.

Overall, even though Grimes can be quite similar to DiVincenzo defensively, the fact of the matter is that DiVincenzo is still averaging more deflections, blocks, and rebounds than Grimes this season despite being an inch shorter. DiVincenzo’s numbers offensively this regular season also look better all-around than Grimes’ so far, though fans may argue that the Quentin Grimes that we all love and know is steadily returning back to his regular self as seen from his last two games regardless of what the numbers show.

The 26-year-old ball-handler also adds more big-game experience for the Knicks, who made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals in the 2022-23 season. In the past, DiVincenzo reached the second round in the playoffs for both his former teams, the Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks, and was the driving force behind the NCAA championship he won alongside Brunson. Although he was injured for most of Milwaukee’s playoff run in 2021, he even managed to add a championship to his name.

Two-time MVP, Steph Curry, once said about DiVincenzo, “He’s all about basketball, he’s all about winning. He brings great energy to the locker room,” per Ian Begley. The Warriors’ superstar also adds that DiVincenzo is an unselfish player, and plays the role he is asked to play no matter what to his fullest. 

Grimes still has a large role to play in the Knicks’ future, and the team seems to be hoping that letting him get some more offensive responsibility with the bench will help him regain his touch and confidence. But while he may very well still be the best long-term option to start at the two moving forward, for now Donte has earned the chance at a bigger role.

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