How did Warriors get Donte DiVincenzo and what does he bring them?

Bob Myers warned of a potential salary cap, an undefined financial threshold that Joe Lacob would eventually say no to. That red light came on the first night of free agency. The Golden State Warriors let Gary Payton II run. They offered him the average taxpayer, which is $6.4 million. He received north of $8 million from Portland, plus an extra year on an incentivized deal.

The difference in the tax penalty — somewhere around an additional $15 million in the immediate, much more on a longer-term deal — left Lacob and the Warriors hesitant. It poked several in the organization, per sources. They had found Payton and not only had come to love the person, but also understood the value of his unique abilities. It translated to winning. For the first time, they hadn’t kept one of their own because they didn’t want to meet a financial demand.

That increased the urgency of the front office on the way to the second day of free office. The Warriors had to beat Kevon Looney and find a path to rotational recovery to make up for Payton’s loss. They had initially planned for him to return.

Looney was sealed in the early afternoon. The final details of a $25.5 million three-year deal were leaked in Los Angeles. It’s a steal for the Warriors in a market they didn’t expect to flood Looney’s direction. They’re bringing back a title team’s starting point next season for a starting salary of $7.8 million, significantly less than Ivica Zubac and Marvin Bagley just received. In addition, the third year of the deal with Looney only has a partial guarantee of $3 million, which creates an extra level of flexibility if James Wiseman shows up.

Looney’s reasonable number contained the tax bill enough that the Warriors felt comfortable using some of their taxpayers’ part halfway through looking for a replacement for the late Payton. Their main target in that range, according to sources, was Donte DiVincenzo, who was believed to have sitting offers for the full taxpayer elsewhere.

That was a little too steep for the Warriors. They still have plans to pick Ryan Rollins, a combo guard, in the second round and need some of that mid-level to sign him on a multi-year deal. So their last offer to DiVincenzo was a two-year pledge of $9.3 million with a player option in that second season. The first season comes in at $4.5 million.

The player option is key from the DiVincenzo side. He has the chance to enter a winning environment, perform in a likely playoff run, and revive an early career that once seemed destined for a bigger payday. If he does that in his debut season with the Warriors, he can get back into the free-agency market in no time. If he doesn’t, he’s protected with a second-year player option worth $4.8 million. That flexibility and the appeal of the Warriors’ shine were enough to convince him to take a little less.

The market is unpredictable. A week ago, there was no reason to believe that the Warriors would have to chase DiVincenzo and, even if Payton did leave, that he would be an available replacement option. The Kings chose DiVincenzo over two second-round selections in the Bagley trade on the final deadline. He would be a restricted free agent. The assumption was that Sacramento intended to keep him. The team had been trying to take him over for years.

But the Kings changed their plans, withdrew his $6.6 million qualifying offer and quickly signed Malik Monk on the opening day of the free agency and traded for Kevin Huerter. That left DiVincenzo as an unrestricted free agent in a market that wasn’t necessarily planning for its availability. “He was squeezed,” said a source.

So that left him in the Warriors price range and without Payton they jumped in, he accepted and several Warriors decision makers heaved a sigh of relief Friday night, combining Looney’s return with DiVincenzo’s arrival, leaving the center of their projected rotation.

What do the Warriors get in DiVincenzo? They hope it’s the pre-injury version from his Milwaukee days. DiVincenzo looked in line for a bigger contract before tore a ligament in his foot during a 2021 first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. He missed six months and looked a bit limited and rusty on his final return in December last year. Not wanting to deal with an inconvenient limited free agency and needing depth, the Bucks handled him for Serge Ibaka in a four-team transaction on this past deadline that landed him in Sacramento.

DiVincenzo’s numbers improved with the Kings. He looked healthier. His minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals and field goal percentages all returned to his pre-injury form. But the Kings kept him as a bench player for the past few weeks, despite an available starting spot. Due to a starter criteria trigger, it was seen as a move to keep his qualifying bid a few million lower, changing his market. That prefaced an unlikely split with the Kings that led to his availability to the Warriors.

DiVincenzo profiles as a substitute for the Payton minutes. The starting position of the Warriors and the best banker have been determined. Here are their top six: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney and Jordan Poole. But DiVincenzo is the most established player in that seventh, eighth and ninth man mix, presumably joined by Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, who play bigger roles.

DiVincenzo is not Payton as a perimeter defender. Few in the world can match Payton’s disruptive ability. DiVincenzo is not that tall, laterally fast or springy. Payton led the NBA in 36-minute steals, was tasked by Ja Morant in a playoff series and blocked Nikola Jokic three times last season. DiVincenzo won’t do any of that.

But he can hold his own on defense. It is 1.80 meters long and has a wingspan of 1.80 meters. Weighing 200lbs, he moves well for his size and grew up on the Villanova program, which is known for producing smart players who operate well within the top tier offensive and defensive systems.

In his 25 games with the Kings, DiVincenzo was the ballhandler’s primary defender in 84 pick-and-roll scenarios, according to Synergy. Opponents scored only 78 points in those scenarios. That’s a very respectable clip. He won’t grow taller and regularly stay with the biggest wing scorers in the league, but he can slide with point guards, scoring guards and even some wings.

Watch him here as he stays ahead of Poole and forces a backcourt after poking his dribble away.

DiVincenzo also faced the Warriors in early January, shortly after returning from injury. Milwaukee had him guard Poole that night. It’s the type of equal-sized goalscorer that he’s the best against defensively. Here he creates a bargain with a hands-up textbook deflection and another possession where he follows Poole through two high screens and gets a strong match on a missed 3.

Again, DiVincenzo is nowhere near as spectacular a perimeter defender as Payton. The Warriors lost any chance at that level of dynamism when the load spike got too much for their appetites and they let him walk to Portland. It’s a decision that could haunt them. But DiVincenzo is the best backup plan out there for the sanctioned price tag. He should work well within the Warriors’ defense system while fitting in offensively.

Payton was a rare lob threat in a guard-sized bodyguard. The Warriors found ways to use him as a high screener, ruining the opponent’s game plans and creating all kinds of confusion. Payton was an electric athlete who cut to open pockets and spice up their transition game.

DiVincenzo is different. It doesn’t chop with as much force or put pressure on the rim as Payton. But he shoots it better, spreading the floor wider and can craft his shot more skillfully than Payton, who never did.

The Warriors will not and may not ask DiVincenzo to operate from the pick and roll. He was inefficient in his 80 such possessions for the kings, per Synergy, leading to only 47 points. Those chances are left to Curry, Poole and even Wiggins. But at least he has the ability in a late clock scenario. And it’s not just as a goalscorer. DiVincenzo had 89 assists in 25 Kings games. He can pass it on. Check out this creative find.

DiVincenzo’s 92 position possession for the Kings led to 100 points, an efficiency figure that is in the league’s 71st percentile. DiVincenzo’s best season was his third season. He made 93 of his 244 catch-and-shoot 3s, a 38.1 percent clip. In those 25 games with the Kings looking healthy again, he went 46 out of 109 on catch-and-shoot 3s. That’s an even better figure of 42.2 percent.

Since this is apparently a Poole, DiVincenzo-themed movie session, we’re going back to that Kings-Warriors game in April. DiVincenzo begins possession at the bottom of the screen. Poole guards him. Davion Mitchell drives to the left and Poole decides to stay in the paint and show an extra body to Mitchell. DiVincenzo cleverly cuts through the lane, flashing to the right wing and taking a catch-and-shoot 3, punishing Poole for the foul.

Here he cuts the ball for a lay-up. That court feeling will be needed by the Warriors.

During that breakthrough third season, DiVincenzo averaged 5.8 rebounds in his 27.5 minutes per game. That’s a big stretch on the combo guard position. Wiggins, for a stunning postseason on the glass, has never averaged more than 5.2 in a regular season in his career. Thompson has never averaged more than 3.9 in a season. That’s part of DiVincenzo’s complete game that will benefit a smaller Warriors team that needs to rebound.

DiVincenzo is not the perfect role player. If asked to do too much offensively, he is inefficient. In a circuit diagram, he’s a little too small to be trusted on some of the competition’s giants. Payton’s departure deprives the Warriors of some versatility in the lineup. But they needed a seventh or eighth man in the middle class taxpayer to fit a need. DiVincenzo delivers that, and so the Warriors were willing to use some of the taxpayer’s middle class to secure his services.

(Donte DiVincenzo photo: Darren Yamashita / USA Today)

Leave a Comment