Welcome to the Brew Hoop’s entirely subjective and emotionally-driven 2019-20 Milwaukee Bucks season player evaluations! Similar to last year’s series, we’ll take a look at each current Buck and ask three questions: what do they do that helps (Boon), what do they do that hurts (Bane), and whether they ought to be on this team (Belonging).
After sporadic appearances midway through Mike Budenholzer’s first year, it appeared that D.J. Wilson may have found a semi-permanent spot among the rotation as an occasional backup forward midway through 2018-19. His defensive versatility seemed like an ideal fit as an on-ball defender, a surprising skill given his size, but he lost his spot to ageless wonder Ersan Ilyasova and Nikola Mirotic, never to regain it again. This was a lost season for the third year forward out of Michigan, and his NBA future seems very much in doubt at this point. At least he knows he’s got a $4.5M payday coming up next year after Milwaukee picked up his fourth-year option prior to last season.
Wilson’s Boon: Springy Defender?
We got to see so few meaningful minutes out of Wilson this year, it’s hard to even find one thing that stood out about Jon Horst’s first draft selection. After 882 minutes last year, he played just 363 in 2019-20. And a large chunk of that came in garbage time; Cleaning The Glass (which excises garbage time) has him at just 229 minutes on the season. Yikes. At least Bud finally found a role he felt comfortable sticking him in: as a member of the garbage crew. The one thing Wilson has going for him is switchability on defense.
His quick feet serve him well, and he can guard most positions up and down the lineup. He may struggle against beef in the post and the most fleet of foot guards, but if Bud tries switching a bit more next regular season, Wilson seems like an obvious player who would benefit from an occasional schematic switch. He’s not going to block too many shots, but he can front post defenders, get his arms on passes and generally be a pest on-ball. If only he had some semblance of offensive aptitude to go with it...
Wilson’s Bane: Offense
Wilson was such a one-season wonder at Michigan, it’s a wonder we even tried to extrapolate anything from his junior season where he vaulted from 158 minutes his sophomore campaign to more than 1,100 before he dipped out to the pros. While in Ann Arbor, he shot 83% on 60 free throw attempts his junior year, on top of 37% from three. Coupled with his relatively fluid game for a big, he seemed like the kind of player who should’ve been able to at least pop in an occasional triple from beyond the arc. It was anything but natural this past year, dipping to 24.7% on his 73 attempted triples this year (he shot 36% on 127 last season).
His 49.3% effective field goal percentage ranked in the 13th percentile among bigs, per Cleaning The Glass. He shot decently at the rim, but it was on such low volume it’s hard to read any sort of insight into it. The fear in his eyes in this article’s cover photo feels all too fitting. Without the strength to operate as a proper big, nor the touch around the basket to be a pick-and-roll finisher, Wilson offers little to nothing on that end beyond a spot-up threat teams won’t respect.
Does Wilson Belong?
I can’t imagine Milwaukee choosing to pick up Ersan’s third year $7M option, barring the need for some salary to dump into a trade, and Marvin Williams already expressed his intent to retire. Ergo, there’s room for a backup power forward on the roster. Wilson seems like the most obvious replacement, but this past year seemed like it sealed his fate as little more than a benchwarmer. If Bud opts to try switching more in the regular season next year, it’s possible Wilson finds a bigger role with his versatility as a defender. The real issue is whether he can offer any semblance of an offensive game for Budenholzer. His dribbling skills, supposedly a strength given his background as a guard before a growth spurt, haven’t translated to his level and he isn’t creating shots on his own. If Bud’s coaching staff can’t track down where his offensive game might be, he probably won’t have a future here.