Milwaukee Bucks: D.J. Wilson emerging as key contributor

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 19: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 19: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

After starting his career as a reserve, D.J. Wilson has emerged as a key contributor to the Milwaukee Bucks surge to the top of the Eastern Conference.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and one which sees the Milwaukee Bucks on top of the Eastern Conference at this juncture for the first time since 1974.

The Bucks are one of the hottest teams in the NBA, winning four in a row and eight of their last ten games.

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This run of games, which was crucial for them to win if they wanted to surpass the Toronto Raptors, has not only led to them leading the Eastern Conference. The Bucks currently hold the best record in the NBA, too.

One contributor who’s gone under the radar during this recent hot steak is the Milwaukee Bucks’ first round pick from the 2017 NBA Draft: D.J. Wilson.

After spending his first 100 games in the NBA relegated to the reserves, Wilson has surprisingly emerged as one of the Bucks most impactful role players over the past several games.

Wilson provides the team with a variety of skills that are necessary to making the Milwaukee Bucks’ system work on both ends of the floor.

On the offensive end, Wilson has helped fill the floor spacing role that Brook Lopez provides to the starting unit. Since getting regular playing time, Wilson is shooting a solid 45.5 percent from three on 2.2 attempts per game.

Wilson’s ability to hit the three has helped provide space for Milwaukee’s stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo to operate. Without it, teams are able to flood the middle of the floor, making it harder for Antetokounmpo or Eric Bledsoe to find lanes to drive.

Wilson has also shown flashes of being an effective roll guy in pick-and-roll situations. His athleticism makes him a danger when going to the basket after setting a screen. This makes it harder for teams to double the ball-handler because they risk giving up an easy lay-up or dunk to Wilson.

Though the sample size is small, the Bucks sport an 110.3 offensive rating with Wilson on the floor, one that’s only slightly below the team’s league leading 113.0 offensive rating. This shows that Wilson, unlike others in the team’s rotation, is helping the Bucks maintain their league-leading offense when Lopez is on the bench.

Wilson’s biggest impact, however, has come on the defensive end.

Wilson has shown flashes of bringing a game-changing defensive impact to the floor. The 22-year-old has been able to seamlessly switch in the Bucks aggressive system, guarding several different positions during games. Because of good footwork, his athleticism, and a long wingspan, Wilson has been able to stay in front of guards and forwards and effectively defend them.

Wilson’s ability to guard multiple positions is particularly useful because it prevents his teammates from having to come over and help him stay in front of a quicker player. This isn’t the case with Brook Lopez, who teams often switch onto smaller guys in pick-and-roll situations because Lopez doesn’t have the speed to effectively guard them.

Wilson has also provided the team with an effective rebounder off the bench, averaging 5.6 rebounds in 18 minutes per game. Only Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are averaging more boards per game than Wilson.

One final skill that Wilson has shown is the ability to make some incredible blocks, particularly in situations when players are driving to the basket. His overall blocks per game is at 0.5, but he’s shown he can be an impact shot blocker when called upon. This shot blocking ability has helped the Bucks maintain some rim protection with their second unit.

With Wilson on the floor, the Milwaukee Bucks have a 97.2 defensive rating. That’s 4.2 points better than the Oklahoma City’s league-best 101.4 defensive rating. This shows that Wilson is helping the Bucks play like an elite team on both ends of the court.

All of Wilson’s skills were on display in his recent performance against the New York Knicks on December 27 where he finished with 10 points, 14 boards, and two blocks.

Seeing Wilson produce has been a sight for sore eyes for Bucks fans. Up until the middle of December, Wilson looked like he may have been a miss in the draft, something the team could hardly afford given their cap situation.

Now, Wilson looks like he may become one of the most important role players on one of the league’s best teams.

Wilson remains far from a finished product. Teams will test him in ways he hasn’t been yet in the games ahead. How he responds to teams changing their approach to him will be critical. However, the signs are certainly encouraging.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: The early glimpses of George Hill’s impact. dark

If the Bucks are going to make a deep run, Wilson will need to build on his impressive form. Here’s to hoping he does just that.