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The path to an NBA future for D.J. Wilson

D.J. Wilson‘s pro career, thus far, has been disappointing to say the least. What does he need to improve on to have a future with the Milwaukee Bucks, and in the wider NBA?

When D.J. Wilson was drafted 17th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, the pick was given a variety of grades from experts. The grades ranged from an A- from Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated to a C+ from Adi Joseph of USA Today.

As Wilson prepares to enter into his second season, it’s clear that for Wilson to live up to either of those grades, he will need to improve many aspects of his game.

According to Woo, teams were high on Wilson because of his ability to guard multiple positions and to shoot the ball from deep. His athletic ability also helped him to look well suited to playing the stretch four at an NBA level. Joseph said that while Wilson’s body fit the mold of a Bucks’ player, his “small sample size of hot play and his lack of an ideal role” made him a questionable first round pick.

While Wilson certainly has thrown down occasional athletic dunks in his limited time on the court he has not shown much of anything else. Wilson only played 3.2 minutes per game last year, and although he did shoot 40 percent from three, that came on only five attempts. Wilson was also able to maintain that efficiency when shooting inside the arc, shooting 56.3 percent from the field.

Having been picked after three years at Michigan, it was expected that Wilson would have adjusted to the NBA a little easier than it appears he did.

Even in his time in the G League, Wilson never seemed to dominate like you would expect from a player who was predicted, by some, to contribute sooner rather than later. He did score 15.9 points per game and dish out 2.4 assists on his infrequent assignments with the Wisconsin Herd, but that still came without him ever really being the Oshkosh team’s standout player.

In the new system, with Coach Budenholzer at the helm, it will be expected that the bigs can move the ball efficiently and create for others. Wilson only averaged 0.1 assists last year, and while that is in the very limited minutes he played, that number should be much higher. Budenholzer’s system encourages, and in many ways naturally creates, more ball movement so there is hope that that number could improve.

Another aspect of his game that Wilson needs to work on if he wants to get more playing time is his rebounding. On defense, after a shot goes up, Wilson seems to want to leak out, ahead of the defense to get some easy buckets on offense. While this does lead to some easy points, with the Bucks’ struggles rebounding the ball, they need all the help they can get on the boards. Making sure his team gets the rebound by staying on that side of the court will likely allow Wilson to get more rebounds, as well.

On defense, against some NBA fours, Wilson would get overpowered because he is still so skinny. If he proves to have added some bulk to his frame over the off-season, that should allow him to be more solid on that end, helping him to see the floor more often. With added bulk, Wilson would also likely see his rebounding numbers jump as he will find it easier to stay in the right positions when fighting for boards.

While Wilson did not have an overly successful first year in Milwaukee, his shooting, in limited minutes, shows there are some glimmers of hope. If he can continue to hit on a high percentage of his shots, while also improving his ball distribution and rebounds Wilson should see greater opportunity this season.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: 5 goals for Matthew Dellavedova in 2018-19 season

Beyond that, if Wilson added muscle over the off-season, that should only make his ability to improve his areas of weakness even greater. The start was far from promising, but at just 22-years-old, do not give up on Wilson just yet.

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