Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
Bucks are still shopping Ilyasova and, as an NBA official added “shopping him hard.”
— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) July 14, 2014
And stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
One more note about Milwaukee: Hearing there’s strong sentiment within the organization to keep hold of Ersan Ilyasova. Not trade him
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 16, 2014
Following the pattern of most every year since he signed a 5-year, $40 million prior to the 2012 season, Milwaukee is dangling Ersan Ilyasova in hopes of getting some return for the struggling power forward and thinning out the ranks of a rapidly expanding forward rotation. Or the Bucks aren’t dangling Ilyasova because he’s a valuable floor spacer and a quality player on a team that’s got more potential than certainty. For a young roster in the midst of an overhaul, the 27-year-old Ilyasova is nearly ancient. Or does that just make him a player with “veteran savvy”?
Last season wasn’t especially kind to Ilyasova either, as he struggled to find his shot while battling injuries and an inconsistent rotation on a sinking team. Now, with the addition of Jabari Parker and Johnny O’Bryant and the hope that John Henson can take a further step in his development, it seems like Ersan’s playing time in Milwaukee is more uncertain than ever. Even though his new head coach can’t seem to stop talking about him, it only seems like a matter of time before Ilyasova moves on to different (probably greener) pastures.
His 2013-14 stats (11 points/6 rebounds per game on 40% shooting and a career-worst 28% three-point shooting) wouldn’t be appealing to anyone, but teams could be sold on 45% shooting from beyond the arc in each of his previous two seasons. That statistic, combined with the current vogue of shooting power forwards, could be enough to convince a team that they’re buying low on a contributor. That being said, the rumors and subsequent lack of action in previous opportunities seems to indicate that the market for Ilyasova is far from what the Bucks’ front office would consider in order to get a deal done.
Nevertheless, there are several teams that would logically be interested in such a move:
- The Houston Rockets have been linked to Ersan multiple times in the past and still seem like a good fit. After striking out on just about every big-name free agent they’ve pursued this offseason, the Rockets may be getting more desperate to land someone – anyone, really – after they cleared the decks to land Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh. Ilyasova isn’t in remotely the same category as those two, but he would be a good fit on the Houston frontline spacing the floor next to Dwight Howard, who would help mitigate his defensive shortcomings. Additionally, the Rockets recently acquired an $8.5 million trade exception in a deal with the Lakers that could be used to take on Ilyasova despite the fact that they remain over the salary cap.
- The Phoenix Suns, depending on their desire to fill the role of the recently departed Channing Frye, could be intrigued by a floor-stretching big man – and have the cap flexibility to take on some salary. Combine that potential fit with the Bucks’ rumored interest in Eric Bledsoe… look, I’m not saying that’s a good foundation for a sign-and-trade but MAYBE THAT’S A GOOD FOUNDATION FOR A SIGN-AND-TRADE. Of course, it hinges on the Suns’ desire to keep Bledsoe and the Bucks’ willingness to sign him to a big contract. Which is to say that no one knows whether or not this is a feasible option. Ultimately, a trade that sees one team trading Eric Bledsoe for Ersan Ilyasova as a centerpiece is unlikely.
- Other teams mentioned in passing – New York and Golden State, to name two – could very well come into play should a market for Ilyasova every really develop. If Golden State misses out on the Kevin Love sweepstakes, they could turn to an outlet mall version of their intended target instead. Phil Jackson’s triangle offense relies on big men who can space the floor and pass well, two characteristics that Ersan does in fact possess. As a bonus, a deal with the Knicks brings the most likely chance of acquiring J.R. Smith, which is really a reward unto itself.
The salient question after determining potential trading partners then becomes that of compensation. Before last season’s dreadful showing, you could have convinced me that a contending team would offer its late first-round pick and the necessary matching salary to complete a deal for Ilyasova. If, as previously mentioned, a team could be convinced that last season was an anomaly and that Ersan will regain his sharpshooting form going forward, it’s possible that the Bucks could salvage some future asset or young players out of such a deal.
However, if teams aren’t moved by the promise of a bounceback, it will likely cost the Bucks some assets to unload Ilyasova’s remaining salary. In that case, I’m sure there will be some teams *coughPhillycough* would would be glad to take on the last few years of his deal in exchange for… I dunno… a few second round picks or a future first. In that case, I’d rather hang on to him. There’s little sense to turn Ersan Ilyasova into a salary dump, given Milwaukee’s very fine cap situation and the potential for Ilyasova to boost his value.
Of course the Ersan rumors aren’t anything new. We’ve heard Ersan trade rumors before and we’ll almost certainly hear them again before his days with the team are over. While he still can certainly be a useful player for a number of teams, it seems that he’s started outliving his usefulness in Milwaukee. As the Bucks continue to focus on the future, their new owners have shown no reservations in moving on from the decisions of the past. Maybe this time we’ll see rumors become reality. Or not. Who knows?