This is why Ersan Ilyasova doesn’t get more shots

Number three? I’m not so sure. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

I’ve recently been complaining quite a bit about how many shots Ersan Ilyasova has been getting. He’s possibly the most efficient player on the Bucks and he’s been lights out from three over his past 30 games or so.

Let’s break down Ilyasova’s season in smaller segments:

So he’s been very good over the past 16 games (all since Scott Skiles and the Bucks went their separate ways). He’s played more minutes, made more shots and hit threes at a fantastic clip. But he’s only taking a baby’s handful more shots than he was taking previously.

On the season, he’s a distant third on shot attempts for the Bucks. Both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are averaging over 16.5 shots per game, while poor Ilyasova languishes far behind them, attempting a measly 9.4 shots per game. Ellis and Jennings need to get out of the way, get the ball to Ilyasova and let Milwaukee’s most efficient scorer go to work, right?

It doesn’t work that way. And this is really my biggest issue with Ilyasova in his current role.

Ersan Ilyasova never creates his own shot. Maybe he’s actually super good at it and the Bucks just aren’t letting him blossom, but I lean towards the belief that he doesn’t really have the ability to do it.

He’s so incapable of creating anything for himself that you rarely even see the Bucks run a play for him. We see Mike Dunleavy come around screens all night long. He’s given the ball on the move and he makes a decision about what to do next. He could drive, he can pull up and shoot or he can keep the ball moving. He often makes a solid decision and keeps the Bucks offense moving. It’s nice when the ball is in his hands because he’s a much better shooter than Ellis or Jennings, so he feels like more of a threat to do something positive on offense.

I don’t expect Ilyasova to be able to come around screens the way the surprisingly nimble (for a guy with a history of knee issues) Dunleavy does. Ilyasova is a big guy, he’s 6-foot-10 and over 230 pounds. He’s not going to come flying around a screen any time soon. Unfortunately though, he isn’t really a post-up threat either. I don’t mean he isn’t a threat to score, I mean he literally isn’t a threat to post-up. He has posted up on 19 of his 515 offensive possessions this season. 19!

So he doesn’t post-up. That doesn’t damn him to a listless career devoid of value. But he can’t really isolate either. He’s only done that on 11 possessions this year. So he’s a thinner power forward who can’t really post-up or take guys one-on-one.

Again, this doesn’t leave him useless. But I’m not sure it makes him a great fit as a third option on a team. And that’s how he’s kind of been billed for the Bucks. Regardless of how he’s been billed, that’s the role he’s played. He’s third in shot attempts, third in minutes, third in points. He’s number three. How is he going to be a number three guy when he can’t do anything but rely on one and two to get his?

Here’s how Ilyasvoa gets his points: He’s the pick part of pick and rolls or he spots-up, waiting for, typically, Ellis and Jennings to get him the ball. You might be thinking that’s a common role for a guy like Ers, but I’d say it’s not entirely all he would need to be if he were really something special. Ryan Anderson has posted up five times as often as Ilyasova and worked in isolation nine times as often. That’s supposed to be his closest comparison, but he doesn’t have to rely on his guards in pick and rolls anywhere near as often.

81.3% (as of February 3) of Ilyasova’s baskets have been assisted this year. He’s on par with Richard Hamilton, Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner and Darrell Arthur in this regard. With the exception of Hamilton, who’s famous for curling and shooting non-stop, those are guys hardly featured or relied upon in their team’s offenses.

I’d argue that Ilyasova is better than each of the players I just listed. But that doesn’t really make him A. Worth the money he’s getting paid or B. A logical third option. He’s a fantastic fourth option or maybe even what I’d call a DISTANT third option on a good team. He’s kind of a DISTANT third option now, but with two bad offensive players ahead of him. If Ellis and Jennings were Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, maybe Ilyasova’s deficiencies are even less important. But he has two shot creators that can’t do a lot else in front of him with the ball.

Creating your own shot is really only valuable if you’re a good enough player to convert on that creation. On the flip side though, being really good at converting shots has a ceiling if you’re incapable of creating them. Especially if you play with two ball-dominant guards.

So my pleas for more offense from Ersan will probably remain distant cries in the night that carry no meaning towards a Bucks team very geared towards two players on offense. Not just because those guys like to have things geared to them, but because Milwaukee’s third best option isn’t really a third best option.

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  1. Interesting article

    I really like Ers – maybe coaching staff will read this post. Is there a hidden gem here that hasn’t been discovered? Could something/someone help “open up” Ers game a little bit? I will say this, his hands around the boards are awesome- there is great value in that with this perimeter
    shooting team. Offensive putbacks are always a big lift for a team thats struggling to get one thru the net!!!

  2. I have a serious issue with this situation Jeremy. I constantly find myself yelling at the t.v. about this. The thing is YES Ersan cannot really create for himself or has little to no post up game. but is open for the jumper so much more than he gets the opportunity to shoot it. When they do run the pick and roll with ersty and actually kinda run the offense thru him things work. When people such a marquis, moute, jennings and ellis drive to the whole, Ersty is always open for the kick, but they seem to have no court vision and chuck some terrible shot up. The only people that seem to notice his hot hand is dunleavy and beno, but benos not in there enough and dunleavy can only dribble straight and he does that poorly. BOYLAN really needs to do something about this. Ive actually seen jennings and ellis wave sova away when he wants to set a pick and then move to opposite way he is as if they just dont want to include him. and this has been happening ALL THE TIME.

    • The two leaders in assists to Ersan this year are by far Jennings and Ellis. Dunleavy has assisted him just seven times, Udrih 11.

      I don’t think it’s so much on Jennings and Ellis.

      • Its not always a stats thing Jeremy. He needs to be part of the entire offensive game. not just when ellis and jennings decide he can have the ball. I am of course a ellis and jennings fan. i like ersty more though. And as of late he is definately playing up to his contract.

      • Ersan isn’t always on the floor when they are and ellis and jennings lead the team in minutes, and the ball runs through their hands so of course they are going to have more assists. If dunleavy and udrih got as many minutes as jennings and ellis, they probably would have high assists too.

      • I would agree that Ersan takes the majority of the blame for his lack of attempts because he isn’t aggressive/skilled enough to get his own looks.

        However Jennings and Ellis are still guilty of routinely passing on or being ignorant of opportunities to kick and dish to him and other players.

  3. Mr. Dwigglesworth

    He definitely is more akin to a well placed turret, than a tank. The problem stated by Antlers that I find disturbing is one that I’ve noticed as well. Recently, even with Illy being hot, and completely wide open, the dirty duo will choose to lower their FGP instead of getting the assist.

  4. Excellent article. Ersan certainly hasn’t displayed the ability to create for himself, though I don’t doubt he has the capability buried somewhere beneath his insecurities and confidence issues.
    1. He posted up more in past seasons and was decent at it. Why he has given up on it I have no clue.
    2. His attempts at the rim are mostly the result of him grabbing a pass or board directly beneath the hope. Seeing Ers attempt a true drive is extremely rare which is a shame because he could certainly draw contact and get to the line. That is if he could attack the rim with as much tenacity as he uses to hustle for boards.
    3. Ersan is overly conservative (scared even) with his shot attempts. He doesn’t use his height to his advantage to get off contested shots over shorter defenders a la dirk nowitzki. If he could develop a fade away few players would be able to defend it.

    So Ers may not be worth his contract yet but he certainly has potential. And I still think BJEllis pass on a lot of opportunities to get him shots.

  5. I cant find a great video of the move but this is best I can do.

    In the last few weeks I’ve seen Ersan attempt a version of this shot a few times from the mid post getting the 1 leg up to create extra space. I dont think he really has the body type or athleticism to be a good back to the basket post player but if he could learn some of the moves Dirk has and do his best to emulate them he could add another dimension to his game and become a much more potent offensive threat.

    • Great video…amazing shot for a guy his size. Did they have to end it with that lucky bounce against Milwaukee? Ouch!

    • Totally agree. I wouldn’t ever expect Ers to be even close to as good as Dirk, but he’s already half way there as far as being that type of shot creator: He’s tall and he’s a good shooter. Now he’s just gotta get real crafty with the ball and his positioning. He could probably use the right coach in that regard (like Dirks lifelong German coach).

      Dirk has a little more length but Ersan has more athleticism. Either way its all about reading and setting up the defender, which Dirk is a master at.

      Its kind of funny how two of the craftiest players in the history of the league, nash and nowitzki, played together for several seasons. Im sure they influenced one another quite a bit.

      • ….more athleticism is not quite accurate.

        Ersan has better running and jumping ability than Dirk but definitely not more skilled with the ball or shooting in awkward or off-balance situations.

  6. I find myself yelling ‘take the shot’ often with respect to Ers. He’ll hold on till he gets trapped and then has to get bailed out by BJellis.
    When he’s hot he plays with confidence, but he really struggles getting anything when he’s not.

    Love ’em or hate ’em, when nothing else works it’s BJellis that try to score.

    Am I wrong that Ersan is not getting as many offense board/put backs as he did last year? Just seemed his strength was timing on the offensive boards and maybe playing with Sanders he’s not getting same position that he got playing with Gooden? I don’t know…I’m asking.

  7. Ersan has always had a good A/TO ratio for a big man. He should have the ball in his hands more than he has.

  8. dont force a player to do what hes not good at…ersan is a pick and pop power forward who crashes the boards with intensity and motor…if we want to bring in a post up power forward then bring in the useless drew gooden who has post moves but bogs down offenses…i appreciate players who know their rolls and coincidentally when monta and brandon hit even just the league avg of their shots we usually stand a good chance to win.unfortunately ellis is having a career worst statistical year and jennings is jacking shots way too much…i know its a pipe dream but if we could package ellis,henson and some first round picks for kevin love id be in heaven! GO BUCKS!!

  9. Just wanted to say that there was some
    really interesting commentary in these
    posts, including the part about whether
    Brandon and Monta do a good job of finding
    Ersan for good shots. Some good things
    for me to think about. Appreciate the info!