Donte DiVincenzo’s career-best season helped the Knicks land the two seed and is worthy of Most Improved Player consideration.

Now that the season is over and the NBA gets ready for the playoffs we can take some time to look at an award-worthy recipient. One player in particular who outkicked his coverage and performed above all expectations is Donte DiVincenzo. The Big Ragú was a depth signing for the Knicks, a serviceable role player who could fill reserves’ minutes when needed and it didn’t hurt that he had close relationships with Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart. Little did anyone know the impact he would have on the Knicks’ success. 

He deserves as much credit as anyone for the team the Knicks have become. DiVincenzo’s role dramatically increased throughout the season from a bench player to a pivotal starter. Just before the new year on December 30th, The Knicks shocked everyone by making one of the more dramatic acquisitions of the season when they traded a couple of their more beloved players RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley for OG Anunoby. With Barrett leaving a void in the starting five, DiVincenzo was immediately tasked to fill that role and he excelled. On the day of the trade he would have his best performance of the season, unfortunately, it would come in the loss to the Pacers but DiVincenzo opened some eyes with his outing.

When the calendar turned to January the Knicks flipped a switch and were rolling and DiVincenzo was rolling right along with them. Even with what would turn out to be a season-ending shoulder injury for Julius Randle in late January the Knicks went 14-2 as they shot up the Eastern Conference standings. The Knicks have been a remarkable story this season as a team plagued by injuries to key contributors but consistently having players like DiVincenzo step up and deal with that adversity. If they had laid down after some devastating injuries it would’ve been disappointing but understandable considering all of their unfortunate circumstances, but their lunch pail and next-man-up mentality kept them afloat.

Since January 18th DiVincenzo has not scored under 10 points in a game and he finished the season averaging 15.5 points per game. That’s pretty good for a role player up to this point who had averaged 10.5 for his career up to this point. The ingredients for his success can’t be understated – coming to a new team is typically hard, and coming to the New York Knicks is even harder but in DiVincenzo’s case, it seems the stars have aligned perfectly for him. He landed somewhere with guys he’s had previous success with in college in Brunson and Hart and playing for a coach that compliments his rugged defensive style of play in Tom Thibodeau, it’s why he’s been able to play in 81 of 82 and start the last 63 games this season and not miss a beat. While his defensive prowess was probably what has helped him excel in Thibodeau’s system it’s his drastic increase in scoring that has pushed his all-around improvement. DiVincenzo has transformed himself into the archetype of what a 3-and-D player is supposed to look like. He’s one of the top pickpockets in the league averaging 1.3 steals a game. He’s also was one of the better disruptive players in the NBA causing havoc in the pass lanes ranking fourth in deflections. 

 His tenacious defense has led to countless buckets for the Knicks and he’s been rewarded in the process. DiVincenzo may have picked up a few pointers from the Splash brothers in his previous stint with the Golden State Warriors because he has become a sharpshooter from deep, shooting over 40% from three-point distance this season. He tied the Knicks record for most threes made in a game with 11 versus the Detroit Pistons. This season he’s third in the NBA in made threes and smashed the Knicks franchise record for most threes made in a season with 283; the previous record was held by Evan Fournier with 241.

While he’s had an excellent season and should be in serious discussion for the Most Improved Player award it’s what he’s done to help the Knicks in their time of need that should cement his candidacy. You can backtrack to the point where DiVincenzo’s meteoric rise began and it coincided with Julius Randle’s catastrophic injury. Since January 29th he’s averaged 21 points per game along with 4.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists; Improvements across the board that helped the team win 50 games and become the second seed as they head into the NBA Playoffs. 

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