D.J. Wilson Is Making Progress

by Alex Boeder
Bucks.com Writer

D.J. Wilson was checking in for Giannis Antetokounmpo midway through the first quarter on Saturday in Milwaukee against the Nets, and the cheers rose in volume, and I had to think for a second about whether they were for Giannis or Wilson.

This little moment exemplified how we have all gone a bit insane over the past couple weeks, drunk off offensive rebounds and ‘the way he moves his feet on defense’ and a three-pointer or two each night.

Wilson, who averaged precisely 1.0 point per game in the precious few games he played as a rookie, has more than ‘flashed potential’ in 10 December games, which by the way includes nine Bucks wins. DeVante Jaylen Wilson has played his way into a regular rotation spot just as the Bucks have hit the very top of the league-wide standings. Both of those developments were unforeseen.

His Player Efficiency Rating (14.5) suggests he has been roughly a league-average player, and that does not feel far off, but what it is, is miles of progress. On a team orbiting around a superstar, Wilson has stood out not by standing out but by fitting in. What does that even mean though?

One thing keeping him on the court is rebounding. He struggled dearly in that regard as a rookie, posting a total rebound percentage of 8.3. This year, that number has about doubled, a crucial improvement for what is the second-best rebounding team in the NBA. He regularly crashes the offensive glass, something he can afford to do because of how quickly he gets back on defense. And his approach on the boards appears to have been informed by watching smart, unselfish rebounders like Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova. Sometimes he will gather an offensive rebound and attempt a put-back rather than come back down with it. Other times he will tip a rebound to a teammate.

Ersan should get credited with one-fourth of that rebound.

Speaking of, Wilson has filled in nicely for Ersan in part thanks to his ability to stretch the floor, a requirement in maximizing the Giannis-and-spread-the-court offense.
After hitting 40.0 percent from deep on a very small sample size as a rookie, Wilson has bumped up his three-point attempt rate a bit and converted 45.5 percent from long range in 10 games this season. The sample size is still small, but he has made at least one three-pointer in nine of his 10 games.

D.J. Wilson is out here spotting up and calling for the ball and faking a pass and coolly hitting a three and I think even making a little motion with his hands to suggest that he knew it was going in. Okay.

Rebound, keep the ball moving, hustle, spread the court, and… play defense. So far, he is doing the role player stuff, and that includes valiantly guarding guys like Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin. He did not stop them, but he made them work, allowing Giannis to do his freelance thing on defense. Wilson has been plenty playable on that end for the number three defense in the league.

This is not a ‘star is born’ story yet. But for several weeks though, he looks the part of a #17 pick from a couple of drafts ago.


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