The Whiteboard: Donte DiVincenzo may make Gary Payton II irrelevant

Jan 22, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Donte DiVincenzo (0) is congratulated by forward Draymond Green (23) after he scored against the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Donte DiVincenzo (0) is congratulated by forward Draymond Green (23) after he scored against the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

Gary Payton II is officially a member of the Warriors and an enormous question mark. The red-hot Donte DiVincenzo may be the Warriors’ answer.

The chaos of Gary Payton II’s failed medicals aside, you can read the Golden State Warriors’ relatively quiet trade deadline one of two ways. The cynical view is that the Warriors were mostly motivated by a desire to shed luxury tax and were willing to sell low on whatever remained of James Wiseman’s potential. The slightly less cynical)view is they realized that their backcourt still needed an upgrade and wanted to recapture the defensive intensity and offensive connectivity that Payton II gave them last season.

The truth is probably a bit of both but in the concern about Payton II and what he will or will not be able to give the Warriors, everyone is kind of overlooking Donte DiVincenzo.

The Warriors signed DiVincenzo to an extremely reasonable two-year, $9 million deal this offseason, at least in part to offset what they lost when Payton signed with the Blazers. He’s nowhere near the elite, point-of-attack stopper Payton showed himself to be but DiVincenzo has been a plus defender the past few seasons and can guard both backcourt positions.

However, he suffered a hamstring injury and missed eight of Golden State’s first 11 games, extending his learning curve and the length of time it took him to find his rhythm with the Warriors. Through the end of November, he was averaging just 5.0 points per game, shooting 37.7 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc.

But DiVincenzo is finally healthy and, over his last 15 games, he has been playing his best basketball of the season, finally looking like the piece the Warriors thought they were getting when they signed him. Over this stretch he’s been averaging 11.8 points, 4.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, shooting 45.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Donte DiVincenzo is giving the Warriors everything they could hope for

As Joe Viray pointed out at Golden State of Mind, DiVincenzo has been thriving in some of the off-ball scenarios Payton leveraged last season:

"“Like Payton II, DiVincenzo has also been a willing screen setter, especially on guard-guard ball screens that either entice a mismatch or create an advantage by virtue of Curry’s evergreen pull-up threat.DiVincenzo has shown that not only can he set fundamentally sound screens — he can also act as a short-roll release valve and decision maker to punish disadvantaged backline defenses.”"

But DiVincenzo also has a lot more juice as a ball-handler and his off-the-dribble creation, even though it’s coming in limited spurts, has been a welcome addition to the Warriors’ offense.

Having another ball-handler has also really helped lighten the load on Jordan Poole (who has played about half his minutes with DiVincenzo). His true shooting percentage is considerably higher when he’s playing with DiVincenzo than without — 59.0 compared to 55.3.

Slightly more than a fifth of DiVincenzo’s assists have gone to Poole, more than any other teammate. You saw in the play above how aware he is of Poole on the baseline and their chemistry on the backcourt cut. DiVincenzo seems to always have his eyes on Poole and he’s done a great job of advancing the ball quickly and casually setting up open shots.

It works in the other direction too, as Poole tracks DiVincenzo in transition and through relocation sequences.

Ultimately, DiVincenzo is a very different player from Payton. He’s a positive defender but not in the same ways and not to the same degree. At the other end, his abilities as a creator, finisher and spot-up threat give the Warriors more versatility and offer many more ways to succeed. Six weeks ago, when the Warriors were struggling and DiVincenzo was still finding his way, the need for a Payton replacement may have seemed far more dire. Right now, DiVincenzo probably has a bigger role to play, whether Payton is healthy or not.

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