The battle for Ersan Ilyasova’s mind

Without some sort of portal into his head ala Being John Malkovich, we’ll never know truly how much one thing or the next impacts the performance of Ersan Ilyasova. It’s easy to speculate on his mental state, on his confidence. We can’t say for sure though.

But it’s easy to see how the performance of Ilyasova impacts the Bucks. Last season in wins, Ilyasova shot 49.5% and averaged 10.7 points per game. In Bucks losses last season, Ilyasova shot 39.8% and averaged 8.7 points per game. In our limited sample size of data this season, we’ve once again seen his performance mean a great deal. In Milwaukee’s loss to the Bobcats, Ilyasova scored just two points (though he did grab nine rebounds). When the Bucks rolled over the Wizards, Ilyasova played a key role, dropping 16 points on just eight shots.

Obviously, this isn’t rocket science. He’s a starter for the Bucks. He regularly plays lots of minutes. If he’s playing well, it’s going to make a big difference. But what’s unusual about Ilyasova is how much of a variable he can be. We know that even when Andrew Bogut shoots under 40%, he’ll be playing all-NBA type defense. We know Brandon Jennings might shoot a low percentage, but he applies pressure on the opposing point guards and usually is able to give the other team some problems with his driving.

But Ilyasova’s play, especially his play early, gives hints about his state each game.

Sometimes he misses his first open shot and he plays lost for an entire game. His effort’s alwyas there, but he quickly loses his typical effectiveness. Sometimes he catches on the perimeter and all game it becomes a pump fake and pass machine. I’m not opposed to the pump fake, it can be effective. But some games it become a crutch for Ilyasova rather than a tool. He’s indecisive and it’s something he uses to buy time rather than to make a move.

Friday’s game wasn’t completely out of the ordinary for Ilyasova. He’s thrilled a number of times over the past two seasons, displaying shooting touch, rebounding skills and even a bit of passing ability that doesn’t typically stand out as apart of his game. He put all of that together Friday. He scored on putbacks, off cuts and jumpers. Surely, this was the Ilyasova Scott Skiles envisioned when he plugged him into the starting lineup before Milwaukee’s first game this season.

The power forward spot has been a troubling one for the Bucks since, well, almost forever. Vin Baker held it down and nearly every other Bucks forward has played themselves out of the spot. Milwaukee’s been acquiring pieces at the four for the last few seasons, seemingly hoping one of their many rotating parts would prove to be the piece that fit best. Sometimes that’s Ilyasova.

If that’s is the Ilyasova that shows up often this season, the Bucks can feel a little better about their odds. If the roller coaster ride Ilyasova was on last seaosn carries over into this one, Milwaukee’s chances get that much rockier.

Tonight’s Game

Milwaukee is in Denver this evening, taking on the Nuggets at 8 PM Central. Carlos Delfino will slide into the starting lineup for the ill (ill physically, not ill like really good, but I think that he’s been pretty ill as a player this year) Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Watch These Guys, Not Other Guys

  • Nene

Big contract, big player, not such big results this season. Nene will be okay. He’s a terrific finisher, can step out and hit some shots, has exceptional athleticism and plays on a team that fits his needs well. He had a big second game of the season against the Jazz and has been average in the three since. He’s capable of breaking out and is one of those rare centers that can give Bogut problems, thanks to his quickness. He shot 80% and averaged 17 points per game against the Bucks last season.

The Rest

Denver is deep. They are full of talented player, but lack that one big, Carmelo Anthony like star. I’m a jerk. But they rotate in and out, kind of like the Marquette Golden Eagles if you’re into Milwaukee’s college basketball scene. As always, they are up-temp0 (2nd in the NBA in pace this season) and can put up points. Milwaukee’s not shy about pushing the pace a bit themselves, so we could see quite a few points, despite the defensive talents of both of these teams. I

t might hurt the Bucks a bit more than they realize that Dunleavy is out, as his quick ball movement and off the ball motion helps them in transition and when things dull down in the half court quite a bit.

This is Milwaukee’s first test on a five game road trip, so don’t think they don’t realize how important getting a game on the front end of this trip will be.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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  1. I don’t like this game for the Bucks, Lawson and Miller run a very potent offense and I dont think the Bucks will be able to match them for points especially with Dunleavy out. I would like to see this game be an up and down game tho, Jennings would love to showcase his fast break open court handle and passing ability im sure. Larry Sanders is a player I would look to for minutes 2nite personally because of his ability to get up and down the court in a hurry