Milwaukee Bucks: D.J. Wilson’s NBA career could drastically change soon

MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 28: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images).
MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 28: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images). /

Milwaukee Bucks’ forward D.J.  Wilson’s future in the NBA is currently up in the air and could take a substantial turn for better or worse next season.

Over his three years in the NBA thus far, D.J. Wilson has spent most of his time watching from the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench. Given the team’s surprising rise from a borderline playoff team to one of the NBA’s best teams ever, Wilson’s lack of playing time as an inexperienced player was not surprising at first. However, the former first-round pick has primarily remained sidelined since.

Playing the same position as reigning league MVP and ascending superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has not helped Wilson’s minutes. This predicament caused an underwhelming start to his career and has carried over each year as the team’s stacked power forward position over the years has limited Wilson.

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Wilson played in only 22 games throughout his rookie season in 2017-18 and lacked a genuine opportunity as he only averaged 3.2 minutes per game. With a jam-packed frontcourt full of experienced players, the then 21-year-old Wilson hardly saw any real action.

The following season introduced new head coach Mike Budenholzer, and Wilson received a much more prominent role. The forward played in 48 games and averaged 18.4 minutes per game. Wilson took full advantage of his increased opportunity, as he showed flashes of potential, even if he averaged just 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

However, Wilson’s minutes decreased drastically when the team acquired Nikola Mirotic at the trade deadline. With the experienced veteran favored, Wilson found himself on the sidelines once again as the league-best Milwaukee Bucks steamrolled into the postseason.

This predicament carried over to the 2019-20 season, as Wilson’s season showcased similarities to his rookie year with limited playing time. The 23-year-old averaged only 9.0 minutes per game in 31 appearances this season and averaged 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, typically in the closing minutes of marginal victories or defeats.

Yet, Wilson played 20 or more minutes in four games this season, and scored double figures in every single one of them, which included a career-high 19 points in a Dec. 2 win versus the New York Knicks. Performances such as this showed potential in Wilson’s game but never allowed him to prove it consistently with staggered minutes between games.

The team rolled with Ersan Ilyasova as the primary option at the backup power forward slot, and later signed Marvin Williams from the buyout market to further bolster that position. The Williams’ signing almost entirely eliminated any chance of Wilson seeing much action the rest of the season, and placed Wilson in an awkward position for the future.

Wilson is under contract with the Milwaukee Bucks until after the 2021-22 season, but if not granted a proper opportunity soon, the forward could be on his way out. However, depending on a few crucial upcoming offseason decisions, Wilson’s future could take a drastic shift for better or worse.

Ersan Ilyasova has one year, $7 million left on his current contract, and Milwaukee will need to decide by Jun. 27 if it becomes guaranteed or not. Marvin Williams will also become a free agent once the season has officially concluded, leaving the team’s power forward depth a significant concern.

If one or both of these players are not on the roster when next season begins, D.J. Wilson could land the most significant opportunity of his career to showcase his talents. If given a chance, Wilson’s potential could receive the proper assessment, rather than let the former first-round pick waste away on the bench.

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However, if the team goes the other route and retains Ilyasova, Williams, or both, Wilson’s playing time is likely eliminated entirely, jeopardizing his career entirely. Only time will tell what comes of D.J. Wilson’s tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks, but depending on how the dominoes fall, the forward’s future with the franchise is very much up in the air.