Milwaukee Bucks: D.J. Wilson producing in meaningful minutes

Milwaukee Bucks forward D.J. Wilson has seen an increase in his playing time of late, and has been proving he deserves to be back in the rotation.

Since being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 17th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, D.J. Wilson has had to deal with inconsistent opportunities to play.

Coming off of his junior season at Michigan, the 6’10” with a 7’3″ wingspan and seemed as if he would fit right in with the Bucks’ physical profile and style of play.

Appearing in only 22 games in his rookie season, Wilson did not have much chance to prove himself, though, only averaging 3.2 minutes per game. He finished that season with a stat line of 1.0 points, 0.5 rebounds, and 0.1 assists per game.

Things would improve for Wilson the following season, as he saw an increase in minutes with new coach Mike Budenholzer at the helm. Taking the court in 48 games during the 2018-19 season, he averaged 5.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. Still, not the most eye-catching numbers, but certainly a vast improvement compared to his first season. The forward had become a much more proven player in the Milwaukee Bucks’ rotation, but saw a substantial decrease in playing time after the team acquired forward Nikola Mirotić at the trade deadline.

There have always been flashes of promise in Wilson’s game. However, he has never been able to showcase them continuously in limited playing time. Depth has always been an obstacle and once again D.J. finds himself trapped behind several players in a jam-packed Bucks’ frontcourt.

Occasionally, we are treated to an explosive throwdown or a scoring outburst, but with the lack of minutes, it becomes difficult for him to provide consistently. The biggest concern with Wilson has been his confidence. There has been criticism at times with Wilson’s tendency to pass up on wide-open shots in favor of moving the ball to teammates with lower quality shots, as well as his lack of aggressiveness in general.

Twenty-one games into the 2019-20 season, Wilson has begun to silence his critics as of late. In 11.8 minutes per game, he is currently averaging 5.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 0.9 assists while shooting 51.2 percent from the field. The numbers may be lower than last year, but Wilson has only played 10 or more minutes in five of his ten games this season, those being the last five games he played in.

The recent back-soreness Brook Lopez had suffered provided Wilson with extended minutes as the center has missed two straight games. In those two games Lopez missed, Wilson had his two best outings of the season.

On November 30, Wilson was given quality minutes in a win versus the Charlotte Hornets, having his best game of the season to that point. In twenty-four minutes of action, Wilson concluded with 11 points, three rebounds, and three assists while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. The numbers caught some attention, but Wilson took advantage of the opportunity only to one-up himself the next game.

Wilson’s current best game of the season was a massive 132-85 win over the New York Knicks on December 2, just two days later. Ending the game as the Milwaukee Bucks’ second-leading scorer, Wilson closed it out with a stat line of a career-high 19 points to go along with five rebounds in 24 minutes of action. In shooting an efficient 8-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-4 from three-point territory, Wilson impressed with both his efficiency and volume in this performance. This game may be the turning point for Wilson as he sent a statement that he deserves to be back in the Bucks’ rotation for good this time.

Interestingly, that message seems to have registered with Coach Bud too, as even with Brook Lopez back in the starting lineup on Wednesday against Detroit, Wilson was afforded 15 minutes of playing time, including an early first quarter burst.

The Milwaukee Bucks have already seen this type of breakout this season with second-year guard Donte DiVincenzo. Appearing in 19 games this season, DiVincenzo has started in 10 of them and drastically improved in nearly every single statistical category. The increase in minutes has transformed DiVincenzo into a solidified player in the rotation, and perhaps the same is currently happening to Wilson.

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At just 23 years old, DJ Wilson has a long career ahead of him. With the way he has been playing as of late, it appears now is the time when he can become the type of player the Bucks need him to be. Wilson has proven he deserves to be a part of this rotation, and hopefully, he keeps up the stellar play with an increased role.

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