Bucks Lead

What Can We Expect From DJ Wilson?

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DJ Wilson largely disappointed as a rookie last season. As a 6’10” power forward (7’3″ wingspan) with impressive footwork and a sweet shot, Wilson was an intriguing selection for the Bucks with the 17th pick in the 2017 draft. The main knock against Wilson was his lack of physicality and his inability to absorb contact, which is surprising for a player weighing 235 lbs. Splitting time between the Bucks and G-League affiliate Wisconsin Herd, Wilson’s play was quite inadequate for someone possessing his physical profile and shooting abilities. Over a year out from his selection, Wilson’s poor play has the Bucks wishing they went elsewhere with their pick.

What We’ve Seen So Far

2017 Summer League

Wilson had a mixed bag of an introduction to the Bucks. Through five summer league games in 2017, he averaged of 11.8 points (38% FG, 27% 3Pt, 88% FT), 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, and 0.8 steals over in 25.2 minutes per game. The low percentage was not too concerning, as rookies often experience a dip in their three-point shooting because of the NBA three-point lines’ increased distance from the basket. Outside of his shooting, Wilson displayed several impressive passes, his ability to run the floor on fast breaks, and some rim-protecting capabilities with seven total blocks. Overall, his Summer League performance was neither awe-inspiring nor egregious.

2017-2018 Regular Season

Wilson split his time between the NBA and G-League during his rookie year, spending most games on the Bucks bench. Wilson did appear in 22 games for Milwaukee though, averaging a meager 1.0 point (56% FG, 40% 3Pt, 50% FT on two attempts), 0.5 rebounds, 0.1 assists and 0.1 steals over 3.2 minutes of mostly garbage time play per game. It is tough to glean any meaningful takeaways from such small sample size, but clearly, the Bucks did not trust DJ to be on the court during important minutes.

Wilson was able to accrue significant minutes with the Herd, however. In his 11 appearances, Wilson averaged 15.9 points (47% FG, 34% 3Pt, 100% FT on 11 attempts), 5.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks over 32.5 minutes per game. By themselves, these numbers look promising, but advanced stats tell a starkly different story. His dreadful -24.0 net rating was the lowest of any G-League player who played over 100 minutes. The Herd had a 19-20 record without Wilson, but were 2-9 when he suited up. Additionally, DJ averaged one more turnover per game. Regardless of his fair shooting, these statistics display how Wilson’s presence on the court hampered the Herd’s performance. When first-round picks play in the G-League, they are expected to stand out from the other players. DJ is doing so, but for all the wrong reasons.

2018 Summer League

DJ’s Summer League encore featured slightly improved numbers across the majority of stat categories. No longer sporting his trademark quasi-fro, the newly dread-locked Wilson played on a similar level to the previous summer, but was noticeably more efficient. Wilson posted 13.4 points (41% FG, 33% 3Pt, 100% FT on 7 attempts), 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.4 blocks across 26.0 minutes per game in five Summer League appearances. Positives for Wilson included his exhibition of smooth ball-handling and picking up several steals by using his 7’3″ wingspan to disrupt passing lanes.

Why There’s Hope

On paper, DJ Wilson has substantial potential.  Potential has not turned into production, but Wilson was seen as a late bloomer, so growing pains aren’t too surprising. To make things harder, Wilson was under the tutelage of Jason Kidd for part of the season, a coach with a propensity for putting circle pegs into square holes. Besides Giannis, Kidd has not been great with developing young Bucks. A stretch-4 with floor running skills and defensive switching abilities like Wilson surely has a place in the league, but it may take time to find a suitable role. New hire Mike Budenholzer has a reputation for getting the best out of his players, so he should be able to place Wilson in a role that fits his style of play. Playing for a better coach with a year of experience under his belt musters hope that Wilson can put it all together and take the next step towards being a solid NBA player.

Why There’s Not

The case for Wilson being a bust is a bit overwhelming. His NBA playing time is a sample too little to judge, but his G-League performance has been sub-par at best. On top of the low production, Wilson has shown little sign of development. DJ’s lack of physicality, his biggest weakness, has persisted. DJ is still pushed around in the paint by other bigs and constantly avoids contact by settling for fall away shots after driving to the lane. The Michigan product has an uncanny ability to lose his feet and end up on the floor. Several times a game, DJ will be knocked over by stronger players. Below is a clip of Wilson exhibiting his clumsiness and lack of defensive poise. Perhaps most discouraging was the Bucks willingness to trade Wilson during last June’s NBA draft. As DJ currently holds a low trade value, the Bucks would only be willing to trade him if they did not believe Wilson would significantly improve in the future. This means the organization that have observed him closest have begun to lose hope Wilson will live up to his potential.

Verdict

Wilson clearly has a long way to go before becoming a dependable option for the Bucks as his aversion to physical play has limited his effectiveness. Last year, DJ showed little signs of growth, which does not instill much hope for the future. Even though it has only been one year of scarce appearances and there is hope Coach Bud can find a role for Wilson’s shooting and length, the former 17th overall pick seems to be well on his way to becoming a bust.

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