Put Up or Shut Up: DJ Wilson

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DJ Wilson enters his second year needing to show signs that he is in fact an NBA player. It sort of goes against my theories on player development to say that a second year player must show something. I believe that historically players come on over the course of their rookie contract, and they are far from finished projects, regardless of the age they were drafted at. Very few players were as bad as DJ was as a rookie. Of course the counter argument is that “You don’t know he’s bad he didn’t play at all” which is in my opinion the biggest indicator that he was in fact quite bad. So we reach a critical juncture in which DJ Wilson must show that he can contribute to an NBA basketball team.

I’ll admit I was higher on DJ than most Bucks fans, I thought that even though he was a little raw, you could see him contributing in the NBA. He has been a late bloomer at every level, not being a star in high school until a late growth spurt put him into high major circles, not a contributor in Ann Arbor until his 3rd season, I was optimistic he had put it all together in Ann Arbor and was ready to do something in the NBA. A year later most of my optimism was wiped away, the fact that he was nearly exclusively a garbage time player is a huge indictment on his game. Neither of the Buck’s coaches felt the need to give him some run and figure out if he could contribute. They felt fairly confident the answer was no, as evidenced by the fact that 20 players played more minutes than him for Milwaukee last season. For a first round draft pick playing double digit minutes is outlier bad, most first round picks are expected to show something as a rookie. If those players played multiple years of college basketball, the expectations are even higher.

DJ was drafted to play the role of an athletic stretch big, someone who be a positive contributor on both ends, but primarily space the floor. In summer league play he has shown the ability to score the ball, but looks sort of lost on defense. Of course no one really plays defense in summer league so results are sort of inconclusive. The shooting is definitely the key though, if he fails to become a decent three point shooter there is really no way he is a passable NBA player. His offensive game is likely going to revolve almost exclusively around his shooting, as he has shown almost no ability to pass and isn’t explosive or coordinated enough to thrive as a cutter or putback guy.

At his peak, I’d like DJ to be a small ball center, which is sort of complicated since he seemingly refuses to rebound. I think theoretically he can be a good defender, and I am confident if anyone can make him that it is Bud, but this might be more of a time will tell thing. He showed good shot blocking instincts at Michigan and as a rookie at summer league, if he can harness that and not get killed on the boards, he becomes a much more interesting NBA player. That theoretical player goes from a bench 3&D guy to a potential starter or closer depending on the team. Do I expect that? Heck no, but I think there is something salvageable in DJ Wilson.

This season will be very telling for DJ’s NBA career, if he doesn’t show marked improvement, there will be consequences. There is a very real chance that his stint on the Bucks could be done in as little as two seasons. The NBA is a cruel mistress for players, you don’t get a chance to come along slowly, there are 450 roster spots every year, and unless you have insane upside, teams will not waste a roster spot on you. The onus is on DJ to prove that he can do something in the NBA. If he fails to do that, he might find himself in a small european gym, sooner rather than later.

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