Various reports have the Milwaukee Bucks are pretty serious about keeping Ersan Ilyasova and the previously quiet market for the free agent getting pretty active.
Wednesday morning, Gery Woelfel tweeted that the Bucks had offered their power forward a five-year deal. Wednesday afternoon, Adrian Wojnarowski followed up, confirming that the Bucks had offered Ilyasova a five-year deal worth nearly $40 million. Wojnarowski also notes that the Brooklyn Nets are very interested in Ilyasova as a backup plan to Dwight Howard. Furthermore, he wrote that Ilyasova has two visits lined up this week with teams flush with space under the salary cap, the Cavs being one.
HoopsHype reported Tuesday via Ilyasova’s agent, that he had a large four-year offer from a European team.
To think, it seemed like the market for Ilyasova had quieted down just a few days ago. When Howard looked like he could be on the way to the Nets and Steve Nash was a real possibility in Toronto, it looked like maybe Europe and the Cavs were the Bucks only real competitors. But the Howard situation is more fluid than water itself, so the door has opened back up in Brooklyn and Nash has made Los Angeles his new home, giving the Raptors some cap space and adding another team into the Ilyasova mix.
The Bucks do hold one significant advantage over all other Ilyasova suitors (minus the European teams): The fifth year. Milwaukee is the only team that can offer Ilyasova a five-year contract and the Bucks have apparently used that to their advantage in negotiations. But there’s a question that probably needs to be asked about right now:
Would a really good team sign Ilyasova to a deal paying him $8 million annually for more than three years?
For all that he did last year, Ilyasova still isn’t an elite NBA player. He’s better than your average role player and he’s better than a lot of players the Bucks have had over the years, but he’s more of a corner piece to the puzzle, not one of those juice middle pieces that help you really figure things out. Overpaying players like Ilyasova is often what limits a team’s ceiling to a first round playoff exit. Flexibility is compromised and salary structure makes little sense.
Henry Abbot wrote about overpaying role players on Tuesday:
The best teams have a certain pattern in how they are built: They get meaningful minutes from cheap role players — many of those are on rookie contracts. The best teams, by and large, pay their top three players vastly more than $5 million each a season. If their fourth-best player makes more than $5 million a year, though, chances are the team would love to ditch that guy.
He cites the Lakers and Thunder as examples. Those teams don’t mind paying their three best players, but paying Ron Artest and Kendrick Perkins $7 million is a decision each might like to take back.
And if you’re already getting ready to tell me about how Ilysaova is the Bucks third best player, I’ll quickly let you know that’s actually what the Bucks problem is right now. Being the third best player on a team that’s fallen short of the playoffs the last two years isn’t all that impressive. It’s probably worth pointing out here too that, in his best season ever, Ilyasova played 14 minutes in the Bucks most important game last season. Yeah, this dude is irreplaceable.
The Bucks have been here before too.
Remember Dan Gadzuric? He’s a laughingstock now, but the team said a lot of things when they resigned him that they’ll undoubtedly say again if they resign Ilyasova. Someone will note that Ilyasova had 20 double-doubles last season. Gadz had 19 the season before he was resigend. Someone will talk about how Ilyasova is young and developing. Gadz was just two years older than Ilyasova when he was resigned. Both had a career season before free agency hit.
But I get that Gadz isn’t the most accurate comparison. He was kind of bumbling and was resigned more as a backup than a starter. What’s that? Drew Gooden is probably going to start at the four for the Bucks next season? Oh. But still – not the best comparison, Gadz had more years on his deal. Fine.
In the summer of 2009, the Bucks were looking to fix their books. They didn’t want to take on big contracts. Financial stability was the idea and the team looked like it wanted to do a complete rebuild from the ground up.
Charlie Villanueva, fresh off a stellar season in which he shot the lights out from 3-point range and hit the glass with an aggressiveness not previously seen, signed a five-year, $40 million offer sheet with the Detroit Pistons. The Bucks declined to match, citing the luxury tax implications and roster flexibility concerns. At 24-years-old, some probably felt like the deal was reasonable. But Chuck V. wasn’t anything more than an okay starter. He wasn’t a superstar, he wasn’t going to be an All-Star even if he developed a bit more. After three years of that deal, the Pistons are looking into amnestying Chuck V., eating the deal and sending him on his way.
Sure, Ilyasova gives an effort every night that Villanueva could never approach and he’s a much better rebounder, but he has even less of a track record of consistency than Villanueva did at the time of his deal. The Bucks kind of did the right thing with Villanueva – the best move would have been to abandon those silly playoff hopes that season and trade him for a pick of some kind at the deadline, but I digress – and let him go. They didn’t overpay.
At least not until the next off-season when the team outbid themselves and nabbed Drew Gooden with a five-year, $32 million deal.
Frankly, I can’t remember the last time the Bucks signed a non-star player to a five-year deal and came out happy about it on the other end. The best reward they’ve gotten back was Andrew Bogut.
Save the five-year deals for superstars and rookies and focus on locking up role players for a year or two. No one will complain about Mike Dunleavy Jr. when this season is over. Just like no one is complaining now about Hakim Warrick or Kurt Thomas or Jerry Stackhouse or Keyon Dooling. They were all moved for assets or moved on. No harm done.
But hey, maybe Ilyasova will be worth a win or two and the Bucks can sneak into the final playoff spot. Maybe they’ll even hang a Mission Accomplished banner outside the Cousins Center.