When the Bucks trotted on the floor to start the second half Tuesday, Scott Skiles tweaked his lineup. Unlike so many of the moves of the past two seasons, it wasn’t a change necessitated by injury. This time, it was his choice. He wanted Leuer.
Tonight, he’ll stick with the move, as Jon Leuer is going to get his first NBA start. It’s a move that Skiles has been hinting at for a while, both with his words and his actions.
After the December 27 game against the Timberwolves (pictured at right):
Jon was great. I probably should have played him more last night. He’s earned his minutes out there.
Then again before the first game of the road trip:
Trying to divvy (playing time) up between four or five guys, it probably isn’t going to happen. There probably isn’t going to be a game where everybody plays the minutes they want. Somebody might get left out a little bit. And Jon (Leuer) has played well and that’s made it even more difficult. We’ll take a look at Jon again tonight.
And finally, after the trip, perhaps the most telling line that Ersan’s days as a starter may be numbered:
He’s pressing a little bit. The reality is Ers’ ideal role is probably an off-the-bench forward, anyway. It’s not that he can never start. It’s just that if you had a really good, deep club, that would be his role.
Today, when announcing the switch, Skiles echoed those thoughts after the team’s shootaround:
I want to take a look at (Leuer starting). Jon’s played very well. I also would like to get Ers back to being a valuable bench guy; it seems to be where he is most comfortable.
Having Leuer figure more prominently in the rotation is no surprise. Since the beginning of the season, Jon has gotten more and more playing time, while Ilyasova’s has trickled off just a bit.
It’s an ideal situation for the switch: at home, against a Pistons team that probably won’t make a serious run at the playoffs. (Famous last words, right?) If there was ever a time to sub in new, young starter, this scenario would be it. And while it’s easy to think of 24-year-old Ilyasova as the grizzled vet and 22-year-old Leuer as the fresh young buck, the difference in their ages is less than two years. (By the way, pun intended — and stay tuned. There will be more puns in the coming weeks as we rebrand this site.)
Ilyasova started in the NBA way back in 2006 as a 19-year-old rookie. He’s learned all the ins and outs of Scott Skiles’ defense and doesn’t really have any deficiencies on that end. But his offensive game boils down to offensive tip-ins, as well as finding open space for long two-pointers. He’s quite good at both, to be honest. But that isn’t enough. Ersan has no low post moves, and isn’t as skilled as Leuer at cutting to the hoop or finding soft spots in a defense closer to the rim. Conversely, Leuer had time to develop an inside game in college, and he hasn’t shown any struggles adapting those skills to the pro game. Leuer gets his looks closer to the hoop and makes a higher percentage of them (50% FG compared to 40% for Ilyasova).
We posted this video last week, but since there aren’t reels and reels of NBA footage of Jon Leuer, we’ll humbly resubmit it as part of Leuer’s portfolio.
If Leuer plays tonight like he did against the Timberwolves, then the Bucks just might put together another win.
Long story short, though, it’s only his job until Luc is ready to take it back.