Milwaukee Bucks: What role suits D.J. Wilson best?

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 6: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images).
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 6: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images). /

After a season in which he showed all sorts of promising signs as a new-age forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, what role fits D.J. Wilson best to continue unlocking his skill set and overall development?

Falling short of booking their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1974 last season, the Milwaukee Bucks haven’t stood idly on the sidelines this offseason in supplementing their foundation with necessary pickups ahead of next year.

The Bucks used the majority of their free agency additions bringing in experienced players to fill out their starting lineup and top-line depth, with the exceptions being their flyer of raw Croatian big man Dragan Bender as well as the signing of Greek forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

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Players such as Kyle Korver, Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews will all surely play substantial roles in the Bucks’ pursuit to improve on the high mark they set last season, the first year under reigning NBA Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer.

But as the Bucks trend towards an older roster and their core players gain valuable experience following a deep playoff run last season, nurturing the crop of cost-controlled players they have, and growing from within, becomes that much more vital to maintain their current contending window.

Among and arguably headlining that group of young, promising players on the Bucks’ roster is third-year forward D.J. Wilson. After a rookie season in which he barely saw the floor and garnered the occasional G League assignment, Wilson experienced a mini-breakout over the course of his sophomore season and the Bucks’ 60-win campaign.

The former Wolverine shined as something of a modern defensive specialist as his size, length and mobility was a key asset within the Bucks’ top-ranked defensive unit, specifically in the times they utilized an all-out switching system. Additionally, the 23-year-old made incremental strides as a stretch forward offensively, evidenced by the 36.2 three-point percentage he posted last year on a decent volume of attempts (127, to be exact).

Where he was hardly given a chance to break into his new surroundings throughout his rookie season, Wilson was clearly motivated to put his humble beginnings behind him last year and the result was building the foundations from which his enticing skill set can grow over the course of his NBA career.

From that standpoint, projecting where Wilson goes from here and what’s best for him to continue unlocking and filling out his blossoming game makes for an interesting look at what his future holds. The point of emphasis in Wilson’s development will always be centered on 3-and-D forward and as it stands, honing his shooting consistency stands as a bigger need to build out his role as a complementary, modern day 4.

The more interesting question in regards to Wilson’s usage positionally is whether he can serve as a situational small-ball 5 at minimum. Wilson was experimented as a small-ball center throughout last season under Budenholzer and that carried into his brief time in Las Vegas playing in Summer League last month.

The results of that experiment have been mixed so far as it’s where Wilson’s struggles with his physicality come into focus when overmatched against more imposing opposing big men. That won’t be much of a determent for the Sacramento native being played there in the future, but it poses as an obvious counter move opposing teams will look to utilize in those moments.

But the fact that the Bucks have picked up a more traditional center in Lopez to fill out their depth and hold other small-ball center options between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ersan Ilyasova may limit how much we see Wilson be deployed there next season.

Wilson’s considerable strides last season undoubtedly brightened his future within the Bucks’ foundation and it’s made him an interesting weapon Budenholzer and co. can roll out when they need a little more athleticism and mobility, especially when enacting their switching defense.

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But with more room to grow, Wilson maintaining his development trajectory will be a necessity to continue having a promising future in Milwaukee and the NBA as a whole.