Ersan and Luc: The Known Commodities

Muddied may be a good description for the Milwaukee Bucks current power forward situation. It’s not like there isn’t some talent there. The Bucks have everything they could ever ask for in their power forward position. Athleticism, rebounding, length, 3-point shooting, speed, power and defense. Except those skills are spread amongst five players. And for a team that had trouble splitting minutes between three power forwards for the first half of last season, splitting time between five power forwards should prove impossible, not to mention impractical.

It’s probably safe to assume that the glut of forwards could be relieved to a degree by making the most of the flexibility of some. Drew Gooden for example, can moonlight as a backup center. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has played small forward on occasion in his two years in Milwaukee, though with less success that he’s had at the four. Still, it’s not like the Bucks are stuck with five plodders who can’t move anywhere else.

Yet still, it seems a possibility that the Bucks may move one of their forwards in order to obtain more flexibility at the guard position. Gery Woelful has recently reported that A. the Bucks have gotten feelers on Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova and B. that the Bucks likely will bid farewell to Luke Ridnour.

Could the Bucks be looking to lighten their load at the four and bring in someone who could take some minutes backing up Brandon Jennings at the same time? It’s possible. But moving Ilyasova or Mbah a Moute may be a big mistake.

As fun as the NBA off season is (and I use the term fun very loosely, as this one has been equal parts excruciating and entertaining), it still amounts to gambling. While it seems like Milwaukee’s done a great deal to improve itself for next season by acquiring Drew Gooden and drafting Larry Sanders to help on the front line, it’s impossible to tell how either of them will fit in. And in the case of Sanders, while summer league may be an indicator, until he actually starts getting minutes in the NBA no one will know if he’s ready to make the impact a playoff team like Milwaukee will need. So as fun as it is to project, dream and hope, Milwaukee’s new acquisitions are still unknown commodities.

But Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute are known and valuable.

Ilyasova has probably been at the center of more trade discussion with regard to the Bucks over the past few months than any other player and it’s as easy to understand as it is puzzling. He’s a valuable player. Ilyasova out performs his contract and seems to have room to grow. No one knows what kind of player Ilyasova will become, but most can agree that he’s the kind of player every team would love to have. Of the top 20 power forwards in total rebound rate last season, only Troy Murphy was more successful as a 3-point shooter.

Ilyasova finished last year with a better rebound rate that Dirk Nowitzki and higher field goal percentage than Rashard Lewis. All while showing enough energy on the defensive end to finish second among power forwards in charges taken. There’s enough to like about the player that Ilyasova already is to wonder if he could be the best power forward on Milwaukee’s roster next season. Assuming he’s still on the roster.

Meanwhile, Mbah a Moute has established himself as one of the NBA’s most feared defenders. He’s the defender the mighty Kevin Durant was tweeting about last season. He’s the one who burst onto the scene as a rookie and has yet to relinquish his minutes. Mbah a Moute has earned every bit of playing time he’s had since he’s been in Milwaukee despite his offensive liabilities. Yet he now may face a further diminished role, or even worse, exile. What’s amazing is that he’ll certainly lose power forward minutes to Gooden, who’s not exactly known as much of a defender. The Bucks, a team that prides itself on its defense, is in effect, replacing the best defender on the team with an offensive player.

But if Milwaukee does keep around Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute, minutes will be that much more difficult for first round pick Sanders to come by. This very likely won’t mirror last season when Jennings won the starting point guard spot coming out of training camp or even two years ago when Mbah a Moute averaged 30 minutes a game in his first month in the league. The Bucks simply have more bodies at the four than they did at point guard last year and have more talent than they did two years ago. So far, Milwaukee hasn’t cleared the way for Sanders the way they did for Jennings, though if Sanders shows he’s the real deal at summer league that may be a different story come August.

It’s likely that Sanders and fellow rookie Tiny Gallon will face quite a mountain to climb in order to get minutes if the Bucks choose to keep their deep front court in tact and take a route other than trading a power forward to find a backup point guard. Without a trade going down I see a mix of Gooden, Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute dominating the minutes at power forward (though it may be wise to bring Gooden off the bench and split his minutes between PF and C). However, if Sanders has a Jennings like impact in Summer League, who knows how things could unfold. What seems certain though, given the promise of what’s to come with Ilyasova and defensive importance of Mbah a Moute, is that the Bucks would be very wise to be very careful in moving either of them for a quick fix behind Brandon Jennings.

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  1. Wholeheartedly in agreement here. Please, Bucks, don’t trade Ersan or Luc! If we do that the Gooden acquisition becomes subtraction by addition. Let’s be stacked in the frontcourt for a change.

  2. I seriously doubt Hammond trades either of those guys. I consider Mbah a Moute to be the third most important player on the team behind Jennings and Bogut. If you’re serious about being a contender in the East, you better have a defensive stopper. Ilyasova has too much potential to trade him, IMO. Not unless you are getting something special in return. Both of those guys mean too much to the Bucks to trade them for a backup PG.
    I think it just makes sense to slot Gooden in as Bogut’s backup and only start him when matchups dictate. If Sanders turns out to be a Jennings-like steal at the PF position, then it makes it easier to move a guy like Ilyasova, but we won’t know that until well into the season. My guess is Sanders rides the pine, Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute rotate at the PF position with occasional appearances by Gooden.
    One thing is for sure, this is a nice problem to have.

    • I like the way you think Drew. I agree on most fronts, though I think ideally one starting lineup will stick rather than any matchup based scenarios.

  3. Just a comment on Ridnour leaving. I believe that is a huge loss. He was more than a safety net last year. At times, I felt better with him on the court than Jennings (not a dig on Jennings – it’s just the truth). Travis Diener is not an equal replacement.

  4. Starters: BJ3, Salmons, Delfino, Gooden, Bogut. I think Maggette will be first off the bench for Delfino, Ersan in for Gooden, Sanders in for Bogut and Luc Richard will give Salmons a break. May sound funny, but when Luc Richard comes in he’ll play the SF position and Maggette will rotate to the SG. That lineup would create a ton of matchup problems for anytime team’s bench. None of us know who the backup PG will be, but anyone for the BAE will do just fine with the other four I think. The Bucks need all of the big men to hedge against injury, not mention giving us a chance to see who we want for the long-term. We shouldn’t trade any big guys in my opinion.

  5. Bucks should try and get Trevon Hughes for back up point guard. Hes on the Houston Summer League Team so lets see how that works out and maybe they could get him.

  6. Delfino is the most expendable player on the team right now. I love what he brings, but he’s the only player who isn’t considered a staple into the future. I want the Bucks to keep all of these guys tho and see how it works out. Find the guys that fit the rotation best and maybe make a move at the trade deadline if one of them is disgruntled or just not fitting in. It would get mighty ugly if one of them got hurt and then they traded their solid back-ups away. Especially if its Bogut making Gooden start at C

    Salmons, CDR
    LRMAM, Maggette
    Ilyasova, Sanders
    Bogut, Gooden

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  9. One thing they may be looking to do is run more. If you look at the personnel they’re acquiring, they look like they could be a pretty good open-court team. Gooden would fit that scenario as a small-ball center at times. That could help them take advantage of their depth, too. And that’s certainly up Jennings’ alley…

  10. why are people being so dumb about this? Luc Richard is about 6′ 8″….prefect at the 3. He is not a PF. Corey Maggette off the bench to back up either salmons or delfino, whomever comes out first. Ridnour is gone….accept it. ersan is staying…CDR is off the bench as well….and he can go SG or SF as well being 6’7″. We have a great squad as long as Gooden stays at the 4 and we keep Moute at the 3. They will be most effective there. We could still use a Center and obviously a PG. I say resign Ivey for cheap…and I guess roll the dice with the new kid.

    • His size may indicate he’s a three, but his skill set is that of a four. His lack of jumpshot and ball handling ability really limits him as a small forward. He’d need to dramatically improve in both of those areas this summer to get consistent minutes at the three I think.