If Ersan Ilyasova needs his hand held, he does not need more minutes

Ilyasova was an important part of Milwaukee’s big Chicago come back and an unimportant part of the rest of the Bucks season. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Forgive me if I do not weep for Ersan Ilyasova, the man who signed for $8 million this off-season and has seen his minutes decline by the game this season.

It seems a yearly tradition for Bucks fans to complain about the mysterious rotational decisions made by Scott Skiles, but I contest they aren’t as strange as they may seem.

He plays guys who are playing well or are clearly better than other players.

We’ll always see Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in the lineup for roughly 35 minutes. That’s how things have gone throughout Jennings career and that’s the sort of credibility Ellis has earned (insane as that is) as an NBA player. Those guys are locks for big minutes unless something drastic happens.

Elsewhere, the Bucks are a pretty deep squad without much in the way of established stars. Tobias Harris seems like he’ll be good, but he has some huge defensive flaws that make it pretty easy for Skiles to give him the hook. Mike Dunleavy is fun to watch, but he has a serious injury history and is probably not a guy who can be productive for 35 minutes. All of the Bucks big men could be good or terrible on any given night – Larry Sanders has been the personification of that this season after his strong start and sudden lack of production.

Milwaukee has a lot of guys who are okay, but no stars.

That’s the sort of less than ideal depth that allows Skiles the freedom to play around with his rotations, which leads to everyone complaining about players not being able to get comfortable, which is the exact sort of complaint fans of an average team are going to always have.

People get very excited about a team with some depth, as we heard all summer.

“They are so deep! So many options when your number 12 guy is as good as your number four guy!”

And yeah, maybe that means this team has a little depth. You know what else it means? That the number four guy isn’t very good. It doesn’t mean he’s bad, but it certainly means he’s replaceable. Replaceable players are one thing the Bucks are flush with right now. It doesn’t matter how comfortable replaceable players get when a team t hat’s playing as well as the Knicks comes into town. Or when the Heat turn it on. Or when the Bulls lock down. More often than not, the team that’s more talented or that executes better is going to win. Heat and Knicks? More talent. Bulls? Professional executors, that one fourth quarter notwithstanding.

Unfortunately for the Bucks, a team without any star players, unreliability is the one thing we can expect from some of their most important players.

One of those important players is Ilyasova, arguably the most fragile and inconsistent Bucks player in quite some time. Cries have been floating across the cold Milwaukee night sky for the Turkish power forward’s minutes to increase despite his excruciating early season struggles. I can only ask, “Why?”

Why bother giving Ilyasova more minutes?

People say he needs more minutes because he has to work himself out of his funk. So it’s Skiles job to hold the hand of a player that was deemed worth $8 million per season to make sure he starts playing better? When did the NBA become elementary school?

Because he was foolishly extended over the off-season doesn’t mean he needs to be playing now. Two mistakes are worse than one.

And what does his extension mean to a coach whose job depends on a playoff birth? The same depth that had everyone so excited about the Bucks front court before this season is what leaves Ilyasova’s contract an irrelevant factor when it comes to his minutes. People were very excited about Milwaukee having a bunch of long, athletic power forwards in the front court before this season started. Now that the Bucks are playing some of those same forwards, people are concerned that not playing is damaging Ilyasova’s confidence. If that’s all it takes for this guy to break down, then obviously this franchise made a huge mistake in July.

Ilyasova hasn’t earned the leeway many want him to have. The leeway Jennings and Ellis get. Before last season Ilyasova had shown flashes of being a consistently productive rebounder and shooter. He’d also shown flashes of completely forgetting how to make open jumpers. No one knew which was more likely to continue. Then Ilyasova slapped together three consistent months last season where he made threes and kept crashing the glass and earned himself third banana money.

Now that’s looking like a distant memory as he struggles with the idea of getting minutes based on how he’s playing now, not how he played nine months ago.

A simple solution for Ilyasova: quit playing so poorly. Ilyasova’s managed a PER of nine through 13 games. Nine! Only 11 other Bucks in franchise history have played more than 20 minutes per game and managed such awful production. One of them was Stephen Jackson. Some of the others were out there for defensive purposes (Ervin Johnson, Michael Curry, Charlie Bell) and most of the rest were just terrible players or trying to get out of Milwaukee as fast as possible (Brian Skinner and Todd Day).

Regardless of the minutes he gets now, he’ll find himself with fewer and fewer if he keeps playing so poorly when he does play. If Ilyasova refocuses on the glass on both ends and starts finishing around the hoop again he’ll find his minutes increasing soon enough. It just takes production, regardless of contract.

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  1. Wow what a great Bucks Article !!! No shit might be the best I’ve read . Well have a great day and thanks !

    P.S. just because I wish you were wrong and we actually had a Franchise player does not make it any less liberating to read a honest assessment of the state of team. I like the truth and it’s obvious we can’t match Star power with the top teams or the execution of teams with smarter players.
    My hope is we stay around .500 and swing a trade swapping BJ or Monta for better fit .
    Go Bucks RickyPeirceand 1

  2. people, dont hold ur breath on Ersan being traded and there isnt a snowballs chance in hell Jennings will be traded..maybe Monta could but I highly doubt that as well. If any move is made this year it will be one or two of the young Power Forwards gettin shipped

    • Jennings could definitely be traded, I think its more likely that Ellis or Jennings goes because they have more trade value than any of the front court. I could definitely see Jennings going, if we are iffy on resigning him by the deadline a trade makes the most sense.

      • Barring a serious injury in upcoming months there are zero teams in the NBA that will be looking for a starting PG in the trade market. In a few months if Dallas or Utah is somehow looking to be a contender and for some reason they think a scoring PG potentially could be what they are lacking I could see them wanting Jennings but they arent going to have any trade chips that would benefit the Bucks. Milwaukee already has a bunch of cap room next year so expiring contracts would mean nothing to them (Also this is a very weak FA class coming up) and a fringe playoff team aka lotto pick from 10-14 is not even close to worth Jennings market value.

        The Bucks already screwed it up with him they are either going to have to let him walk when a team like Dallas offers him 12-15 million per season next year or match it. My guess is they will match it because Ellis is going to terminate his Player Option and the Bucks are going to want at least one of those guards to stay

        Ellis has some value right now because he has 2 years on his current deal still but since he has publicly stated that he is not willing to play a 6th man role I doubt anyone is going to want to make a move for him since that is what he is best suited for. Also there have been reports that he wants nothing to do with the Bucks after this season so if they’re going to trade someone it would be him but I doubt that happens.

        • Your argument is a bit illogical though, because if the Bucks make a decision mid-season about whether or not they will resign bj3 (which they should) and they decide they are going to let him walk, then the only sensible option is to trade him and get a return. Letting him walk makes no sense at all ever. If they decide they want to resign him then yea I would agree it may be hard to get a worthy return in a trade but you don’t know until you shop him and I’m sure Hammond will do just that even though we may never hear about it.
          Jennings is a tough one to figure out, I think most people have a love-hate relationship with his style of play.

          • I think you are confusing Rookie Contracts vs other NBA contracts, the deadline for resigning/extending someone on a Rookie Contract scale was Oct 31st. Brandon is on the final year of his Rookie Contract and the Bucks missed the boat on resigning him so Brandon will be a RFA this offseason provided that the Bucks extend the Qualifying offer for Brandon which is set at roughly 4.3 million..then the teams bid on him in the offseason and the Bucks have the chance to match whatever the highest bid is or let him walk.

          • Yea what you said below proves my point, if they let him walk they get nothing, so if they decide they’re going to let him walk it would be better to trade him b4 the deadline for a bag of doritos than just to let him walk. Get it?

          • Id agree with that if they knew what he was going to be offered but they do not so there is no way for them to know whether or not they are going to resign him and for how much right now. If his contract was predetermined he could potentially be traded but since it is not there are too many question marks financially for other teams for them to be seriously interested in him.

            Im saying that it’s not the Bucks who make it un-wise to trade Jennings Im saying from the perspective of owners across the league it makes very little sense to trade for him right now so no1 will. Only potentially a serious injury to a contending team’s Starting PG would spark potential interest and that team would have to give up lots of draft picks because an expiring contract for Jennings is pointless for the Bucks since they already have a bunch of cap room for next season in an already weak FA market and that contract would only be about 4 million dollars which is less than league average salary.

  3. Skiles job isn’t to hold players hands, you’re right. It’s to get the best performance out of the players on the Bucks that’s possible. If that ncludes building up a player confidence, then it’s part of his job.

    Ilyasova’s a valuable player when he’s on his game, anything that Skiles can do to get his head right would make the Bucks better whether by increasing his trade value or value on the court.

    • @Eric, tru dat. While I agree that Ers doesn’t deserve more minutes at this point a good coach realizes that different players need different treatment. You need to be tough on some and encouraging towards others. Ersan was questionably the best player on the team last year, its worth giving some effort to try to shake his ills (which are purely psychological). Then there is eventually a point of diminishing returns where it isn’t worth the effort and you cut your losses.

      • Garbage. Skiles is a horrible nba coach who for some reason is intent on fully tanking the first half of this season. He just doesn’t know how to squeeze production out of any portion of the lineup 1-5. Tonight was disgusting. He tanks the game in the first quarter with a talentless starting 5 ill suited to run with jennings while sniping at this lame duck ownership by DNP-CDing arguably the best all around player on the team. This is a coach who has no track record of success even when he was with heavily talented teams. He’s a crusty napoleanic twat with little to no game plan for success. no defensive system, no offensive plan, no idea how to make use of the talent he has to win games. Ilyasova is an excellent 3 and in certain situational matchups, and unstoppable 4. Skiles job should be to figure out a way to draw out inspired play from talented players, but instead he uses them as his personal scape goats while he bumbles around and collects too much money for turning into a balding little butterball with a career .500 batting average… speaking of average, so was his play for that matter when he was in the nba. this is how he thanks teh team that drafted him and paid him for his mediocrity in the 80’s. stifling a long, tenacious defender with a deadeye inside 20 feet because he wants to play some sort of bastardized slow down 70’s princeton offense. Ilyasova basically glued together a bench and led them to a 40-7 run and the bucks won in magnificent fashion only 2 gemes ago… skiles found out he won a game…oh no we cant have that! get that winner out of there. what a douche article. ilyasova doesn’t want his hand held. he wants to be put in a position to succeed… and so does jennings. Fire Skiles. The bulls did, and got a whole lot better 5 years ago.

        • Ilyasova has sucked all season. I don’t think we should give up on him but criticizing Skiles for cutting his minutes is just ‘silly’ as is the rest of your comment.

  4. Ersan never should have been signed for big money. HORRIBLE GM work. What other team would have offered
    Frankenstein—yes he looks more like him than Dracula–even 5 MIL a year? Ryan Anderson got Ilysova money.
    And he torched the Bucks.The next big mistake will be giving Brandon J, 10 mil a year. Mark these words.
    He is just as inconsistent as Ers.He shoots too much, cannot guard anyone, gambles to get steals—which is NOT playing good D–and will never be a star point guard. But Monta hates it here, so guess who the Bucks will throw money at? Second tier players, all, getting first tier money. Let em all walk, endure a really bad season, and get some better draft picks.