Who is Nate Wolters?
Wolters is a St. Cloud, Minn., native entering his first NBA season with the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee acquired the 22-year-old South Dakota State University graduate by trading their second-round selection Ricky Ledo with a future second-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. Wolters is listed at 6’5″, weighs 190 pounds and can play either the 1 or the 2 guard. Barring injuries to the players ahead of Wolters on the depth chart, it’s unlikely he’ll have the opportunity to contribute much for the Bucks this season.
The presence of Brandon Knight, Luke Ridnour, Gary Neal and O.J. Mayo all impede Wolters from seeing consistent minutes. Mayo, brought in from the Dallas Mavericks, signed a deal worth $24 million during the offseason while Brandon Knight was sent by the Detroit Pistons in a sign-and-trade that finally rid the Bucks of Brandon Jennings. Luke Ridnour, also acquired via sign-and-trade, makes his return to the Milwaukee this season after being exchanged by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who received a future second-round draft pick. Gary Neal joined the Bucks only after the San Antonio Spurs rescinded an offer made only a week before. Behind Knight, Neal and Ridnour on the depth chart, it’s unlikely Wolters plays more than 10 minutes per game this season.
Wolters’ game is similar to Minnesota Timberwolves second-year guard Alexey Shved. Because of injuries to his teammates, Shved averaged 24 minutes per game last season, averaging nine points and four assists in 77 appearances with the Wolves. The only rookie to average more assists than Shved was Damian Lillard — the eventual Rookie of the Year.
Both Wolters and Shved are crafty scoring the ball and have deceptively quick handles. Wolters is able to score the basketball and help the Bucks a variety of other ways. No team is safe from injury; if Wolters finds himself playing similar minutes, he’ll need to use his nifty hesitation move, keeping the defenders off balance. The hesitation can often leads to blow-bys — open attacks on the basket. Wolters is very smooth and deliberate with his actions, never getting bullied around the floor and is experienced running pick-and-rolls and creating looks for teammates out of isolation plays.
His senior campaign at SDSU was Wolters’ best. He shot 49 percent from the field, 80 percent from the free-throw line and had a nearly 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. In addition to the percentages, Wolters totaled more points, dished out more assists, converted more on more field goals while playing more minutes than any other player in school history. His points and assists averages per game last season are also school records, along with his efficiency rating, which was second-best in all of the NCAA last season.
Defending is an area of concern for the Bucks, especially Wolters. Bulking up and improving his lateral movement is a must if Wolters hopes to eventually guard the likes of Ricky Rubio, Derrick Rose or Stephen Curry.
Wolters offensively has the tools to one day average between 10 and 15 points per game, potentially more if he’s able to translate the success he found at school to the professional level. Is the time now for him produce for the Bucks? No and barring injuries to Ridnour, Mayo, Knight or Neal — seeing Wolters on the court in Milwaukee this season is to be considered a rare occurrence.