Ersan Ilyasova started his career with the Milwaukee Bucks, but became an NBA journeyman in 2015 when the Bucks traded him to the Orlando Magic. After the trade he spent time on five different teams before eventually coming back to the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2018 offseason. Milwaukee did not waste anytime during the offseason, and promptly on July 1st the Bucks signed Ilyasova to a three year, $21 million deal. Many believed that this was a reach for the Bucks, but the signing made sense with Ilyasova’s history with the Bucks, coach Bud, and his ability to stretch the floor. He started the season strong by scoring double digits for the Bucks in five out of the first 10 games, and even scored a season high of 19 points against the Raptors during that time. However, during the regular season his scoring was extremely inconsistent. Ilyasova struggled to contribute on the offensive end consistently, and even went 6 games without scoring a point single point in January after coming back from an injury. Even without dependable scoring, Ilyasova continued to contribute to the Bucks in different ways. He has an extremely high basketball I.Q, and constantly put high effort in rebounding the basketball. When Ilyasova was on the court, the Bucks experienced a +5% defensive rebounding advantage. Ilyasova was a solid veteran player, who when paired up with Brook Lopez, stretched the defenses out to open the floor for Bledsoe and Giannis to make plays.
Highlights: Offensive Rating
Ilyasova was part of the best 5 man lineup for the Bucks this season, and the best 4 man combination. Bledsoe, Brodgon, Snell, Antetokounmpo, and Ilyasova, formed the most efficient scoring unit for the Bucks. They outscored their opponents by 29 points per 100 possessions. The Bucks best 4 man combination, Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Lopez, and Ilyasova, outscored opponents by 35 points per 100 possessions. Even with Ilyasova’s streaky shooting, he still ended the season shooting 36% from 3 point land, and opened the floor for Giannis. Even without consistently scoring, the mere threat of his shooting abilities were enough to make the defense play honest. Ilyasova, just like George Hill, was a composed veteran leader for the young Bucks on the offensive and defensive end of the court.
Lowlights: Expensive Contract for Inconsistent Contributions
As mentioned earlier, Ilyasova was not a consistent scorer for the Bucks. As a veteran power forward who can stretch the floor, being a streaky shooter isn’t the worst thing in the world. I think of JR Smith who is the definition of a microwave player, and has found consistent role on teams as an offensive threat despite his inconsistent output. Before Bucks fans yell and say I think Ilyasova and Smith are the same player, I DO NOT! I am merely comparing streaky players that stretch the floor and come off the bench. The reason that this becomes an issue, is that Ilyasova was our first and most expensive free agent signing. We are paying Ilyasova $7 million each year to open the floor. He finished the season shooting 36% from 3, but also didn’t make a single three point shot in 22 of 67 (33%) this season. The Bucks are paying him a lot of money to make 3’s, so not scoring a 3 in 22 games this season is disappointing.
Grade for the Season: B-
Ilyasova earned a B- as a grade for this season. As stated earlier, the Bucks signed him to help with shooting, rebounding, and defensive. He did all of these things, but again he was not consistent. Some games fans could see why the Bucks were so eager to sign him, but in other moments they were searching for potential trades on the ESPN trade machine. Ilyasova is a strong veteran presence for the Bucks, and shows them the effort and basketball I.Q. that is needed in the NBA. As Ilyasova goes forward, he will need to become more consistent with his offensive scoring, and when he does his grade will easily rise.
Role Next Season: Traded or Back up Power Forward
The Bucks have entered the most important offseason in the last 20 years. Bledsoe (resigned), Middleton, Lopez, and Brogdon, are all free agents. These are four of the Bucks starters. The Bucks have been trying to free up cap room during the season and offseason to resign as many players as possible. They traded Henson, Delavadova, and most recently Snell, in efforts to free up more cap space. Even after those trades, Ilyasova has been reported to be on the trade block this offseason. This is not because he is a bad player, but rather his $7 million contract. The Bucks will likely look to move him for a cheaper contract, or a player that they could release without taking much damage. If Ilyasova survives the offseason, he is expected to continue his role as a backup power forward who will stretch the floor.