Milwaukee Bucks: Dragan Bender makes D.J. Wilson expendable

BROOKLYN, NY - JANUARY 18: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, NY - JANUARY 18: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With Dragan Bender impressing between the G League and his performance on Saturday night for the Milwaukee Bucks, it looks like D.J. Wilson is the odd man out on the roster right now.

It’s been a struggle for some of the front court players to see the floor recently on the Milwaukee Bucks. With Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, and Robin Lopez proving to be effective on most nights, Dragan Bender and D.J. Wilson have found it nearly impossible to get any meaningful minutes for the team.

Saturday night, however, proved to be an opportunity for them. With Robin Lopez sidelined due to an illness, a significant amount of playing time was available for Bender or Wilson to prove their worth against a potential first-round playoff match-up for the Bucks in the Brooklyn Nets. It was clear that there was only one real winner in that competition.

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Dragan Bender was the main beneficiary from Lopez’s absence. Bender logged a season high 21 minutes, putting up a respectable line of six points and six boards on 2-7 shooting.

What stood out about his performance, though, wasn’t his stats. It was how effective the team was in his minutes on the floor. Milwaukee was a +14 in his time on the court, which was second highest on the team behind Kyle Korver.

The Bucks went on a few impressive runs with Bender in the rotation. Their run to open the second quarter, in particular, saw him play a pivotal role in stopping Brooklyn’s attempts to score, especially at the rim where his contests forced bad shots or caused opponents to turn the ball over. Bender also set some solid screens on the other end of the floor, which led to some open baskets as the team began to get hot from behind the arc, and his positioning did a great job of maximizing the team’s spacing.

Bender looked right at home when he was on the court. The NBA’s leading team didn’t miss a beat with him out there. That’s impressive considering that Bender had featured in just four games all season prior to Saturday night, with almost all of his minutes coming in garbage time.

D.J. Wilson, on the other hand, would not see the floor until the game was already decided. His five minutes came at the end.

Looking at what Saturday could mean for the bigger picture, it looks like Wilson is the odd man out on the Bucks’ roster right now. Wilson has failed to log more than 10 minutes in a game in nine of his past ten appearances. With Bender showing real promise, both between his opportunity on Saturday, and in the G-League, there doesn’t appear to be any pathway for Wilson to earn a shot at a meaningful role on this team anymore. The Bucks guaranteeing Bender’s contract for the rest of the season a few weeks ago all but confirms that’s the case.

Wilson’s relegation to the tail-end of the roster could mean he’s on the way out the door soon. It’s doubtful he would be anything more than a throw-in if the Bucks were to make a trade at the deadline given his struggles so far this season.

Next. Donte DiVincenzo’s warming up at the right time. dark

Both players will continue to have a difficult time cracking the rotation, but Saturday made crystal clear that Dragan Bender has worked his way ahead of D.J. Wilson in the pecking order on this team. That could mean Wilson’s time on this roster is nearing its conclusion.