Milwaukee Bucks: D.J. Wilson shows potential at Summer League

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 7: (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 7: (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Having been selected with the 17th overall pick of the NBA Draft, all eyes were on D.J. Wilson as he suited up for the Milwaukee Bucks at Summer League.

When the Milwaukee Bucks drafted D.J. Wilson in the first round of this year’s NBA draft, many fans could have been forgiven for asking if it was something of a reach.

Wilson was something of a late riser in many of the more notable mock drafts, and for many, the standout details about the 21-year-old were likely that he had led the Michigan Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament this year and that he was inclined to wear short shorts reminiscent of the olden days of the NBA.

As a result, Bucks fans were eagerly anticipating the opportunity to see their new addition take to the court, and the NBA’s annual Summer League in Las Vegas provided Milwaukee’s supporters with a chance to get to know Wilson a little better.

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One of the most striking aspects of Wilson’s play in Vegas, and one that may have come as a surprise to fans looking on is the youngster’s comfort with the ball.

His ball-handling ability should make Wilson an intriguing option in the pick-and-roll. In many ways, the way in which Wilson can distribute is reminiscent of Boris Diaw, while in spite of having a much thinner frame than the Frenchman, he can also pose similar threats with his shooting range and fadeaway jumpers out of the post.

Wilson’s ability to catch the ball at the top of the key, make good decisions and then execute from there, builds on some of what Greg Monroe has offered the Bucks, and gives Wilson the potential to be the team’s best passing big since Andrew Bogut.

Decision-making skills are essential for rookie players. If rookies who get a chance to see the floor demonstrate high IQ, they will get to play more. Wilson did not have more than one turnover in any Summer League game, and if that can hold true when the regular season comes around, Wilson will have no problem seeing playing time.

The proof of this came last season with how well Malcolm Brogdon played. The Rookie of the Year made great decisions and knew what to do on both offense and defense. Thon Maker also impressed with his good decision-making last year.

Wilson also excelled in pushing the ball up the floor, showing that he can initiate the offense or go coast-to-coast without getting it to a ball-handler. This confidence will give the Bucks another playmaker, something they need so as to ensure that Giannis is not frantically dribbling the ball around for the entirety of the shot clock. Wilson did also have a four assist game this summer, which coincided with his best overall performance in Vegas.

Perhaps most encouraging of all of Wilson’s traits is that he is not afraid to shoot, though. He shot 4-13 in his Summer League debut, 6-13 in the game against the Nets, 7-13 against the Clippers, 3-11 against the Kings, and 3-10 against the Jazz. It’s clear there is a lot of room to grow with his shot consistency, but given the opportunity, D.J. Wilson will not be afraid to shoot.

A lineup with Wilson, Brogdon, Middleton, Giannis, and Maker could be very formidable. Teams with poor perimeter defense from power forwards and centers would struggle to defend Bucks lineups like this because of that ability to stretch the floor.

As for now, Wilson would seem likely to have a role similar to Thon Maker’s last year. What he can do beyond that remains to be seen.

Next: Win In 6 Podcast #138: Summer League wrap-up, more Derrick Rose talk

What Wilson’s Summer League play demonstrated is that he is a skilled big with a bright future role on this rising Bucks team. That’s a strong base for any draft pick to build on.