In a matter of two months, Milwaukee Bucks second-year forward D.J. Wilson has blossomed into a vital piece within the team’s rotation and has given us all a peek into the development pipeline that’s being established under head coach Mike Budenholzer.
Through every check mark that we reach in the regular season, the 50-game mark being the most recent example, the Milwaukee Bucks keep going full steam ahead.
Holding the best record at 38-13 entering their road clash with the Brooklyn Nets Monday evening, the Bucks’ season-long dominance has been well documented and it’s all started with just how franchise altering the hiring of head coach Mike Budenholzer has proven to be.
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The presence and overall influence of Budenholzer and his coaching staff has unlocked virtually every aspect of the Bucks’ play, optimizing a whole host of players from the top down of the team’s roster.
But very few, if any, Bucks fans anticipated second-year forward D.J. Wilson playing any significant part of that equation heading into the season.
It’s been nearly two months since Wilson made his first appearance with the Bucks this season, a garbage time cameo that came during up a blowout 115-92 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Fiserv Forum.
Since that opening outing, Wilson has risen from human victory cigar to a critical role player, whose blend of two-way qualities have given the Bucks a much needed dimension to fortify their depth even further than previously thought.
Offensively, Wilson’s complementary three-point shooting has resulted in him knocking in 45.3 percent of his 53 attempts so far this year from that level of the floor. Although he has further to go in combating his long-standing physicality concerns, Wilson has generated second chance opportunities with a willingness to fight on the offensive glass, which can be seen in his 1.3 second chance points per game, per NBA.com/stats.
Switching sides, the former Wolverine has simply been a revelation, thanks to his athleticism, improved frame and sharp defensive awareness. There was the stonewalling five-time All-Star Blake Griffin in the post during a road tilt against the Pistons as well as switching on to three players in a single possession against the Miami Heat in what stands as the Bucks’ worst played game of the year.
Most recently, Wilson stifled Most Improved Player candidate Pascal Siakam during a critical stretch in the Bucks’ massive 105-92 win over the Toronto Raptors late last week. Wilson’s career high night over the Bucks’ neighbors to the north can be looked at as the ultimate example of just how far his impact can be felt on the team at the present.
Afterwards, Wilson shed some light on his overall mentality and how it looks to have his presence be felt when talking to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"“I got confidence in every three I take,” Wilson said following a career-high 16-point performance in which he went 3 of 6 on three-pointers. “Whether I miss, make, I think the next one’s going in.“My main priority is not scoring at all; that’s just something that comes and it happened to come tonight knocking down shots and whatnot. I’m just focused on bringing energy, playing hard, playing great defense, rebounding and letting the rest fall into place.”"
By currently holding a +10.5 net rating in the 417 minutes he’s seen the floor, Wilson has provided some much needed stability within the Bucks’ frontrcourt depth, especially in light of veteran Ersan Ilyasova‘s prolonged struggles since returning from injury as well as the purgatory Thon Maker currently finds himself in following his reported trade request late last month.
A few hurdles still stand for Wilson to clear, but it would be fair to characterize how the 22-year-old is establishing himself within the Bucks’ foundation this season wouldn’t have been possible under any recent coaching regime other than Budenholzer and co.
There’s a certain kind of synergy permeating throughout the Bucks’ season to this point, but the arrival of Wilson points to what may be possible for the team as they look to sustain their success beyond this season.