As a promising 2009-10 season wound down, Scott Skiles regularly spoke fondly of Ersan Ilyasova. He predicted good things from his power foward. Ilyasova was impressing nightly with his effort and shooting stroke from deep. Skiles said they expected Ilyasova to take a step forward in the future and turn into a strong rebounding forward who would shoot around 37 or 38% from 3-point range.
It sounded probable. There was little reason to expect Ersan to take a step backwards, especially after a strong summer of 2010 during which he led the Turkey national team to a silver medal at the World Championships.
He promptly arrived back to the NBA last season and took a huge leap backwards. He battled a concussion and his own indecisiveness. Ilyasova struggled to know when to pass and when to shoot when he caught the ball outside and often found himself, “pump faking air” as Skiles noted last season.
But that Ilyasova Skiles was hoping he’d see has appeared without warning over the past 19 games.
“He’s rebounded the ball, obviously at a great rate, the whole season and he doesn’t take as many ill advised threes and that’s had a very positive effect on his game,” Skiles said before Wednesday’s game.
“He’s gone from a 25 to 27% 3-point shooter to a plus 35% 3-point shooter in large part because he takes good ones now. He’s not running around searching for the line, as so many guys do. If he finds it and he’s behind it and his feet are set, he lets it go. Otherwise, from 12 to 18 feet, when his feet are set, he’s a high level shooter. And he’s kind of found his areas there. But the main thing is his overal effort on the glass and everything. He’s really stood out and he stands out almost every night there.”
The offensive rebounding differences have made a big impact on Ilyasova’s scoring numbers. According to mySynergySports, through 39 games this season, Ilyasova has made 31-68 shots after offensive rebounds. In 60 games last season, Ilyasova made 34-76 shots after offensive rebounds. In just about two third the number of games this season, he’s already almost made just as many baskets on offensive boards as he did last season. After ranking 161 in points per possession on offensive rebounds last season, he sits in 72 this season.
Ilyasova’s effort and strength on the offensive glass has been nothing short of elite. He’s sixth in the league in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing 13.8 percent of available offensive rebounds when he’s on the court. The players Ilyasova ranks between, Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Jordan, are a hilarious study in contrast of style. Both Ibaka and Jordan can sky above opponents and slam in tip dunks as well as anyone in the league.
Ilyasova has leveraged his strength incredibly well. As soon as his teammates start attacking the hoop or take a shot, he moves towards the hoop and muscles potential opposing rebounders out of his way and under the hoop. He’s also done a great job of getting to the baseline and getting position inside of defenders as players attack or after the ball has been shot.
Basically, he’s taking advantages of every opportunity on the court he can and showing incredible awareness and strength while doing it. He’s been great.
Naturally, we all can’t wait to trade Ersan Ilyasova..
Such is life. But whether Ilyasova stays or goes, walks in the summer or is a Bucks player for many years to come, we should all stop and appreciate what he’s done this season and the effort he’s put in. It’s not often players make coaches look like something of a profit.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.