Milwaukee Bucks fans have been waiting for Ersan Ilyasova to break out of thin shell of inconsistency for a long time. Few expected it to happen without Andrew Bogut.
Without Drew Gooden as well, Ilyasova tore a soft New Jersey Nets frontline asunder with 29 points and 25 rebounds in 36 minutes of the Bucks’ 92-85 win Sunday. The historic performance rightfully unleashing a wave of compelling trivia tweets from the Bucks public relations team and spawned Milwaukee’s response to Linsanity.
No one questions Ilyasova’s energy or intangibles. Ilyasova never fields post-game questions about his lack of effort or interest in helping the Bucks. You always know what to expect from Ersan; an occasional triple, a few put-backs, a cluster of pump fakes preceding mid-range jumpers, and sneaky, smart rebounding. The concern has always been the hot and cold accuracy of those shots.
Ilyasova wrestled down 25% of the Bucks’ 53 missed shots (13 offensive rebounds) against the Nets, and did most of his offensive work around the hoop (7-15 at the rim, 2-4 from 16-23 feet, 2-4 3FG). Ilyasova deserves credit for his career and franchise-best performance on Sunday night, but it really represents a peak in what has been the best month of his NBA life.
Through the first 10 games in February, Ilyasova averaged 14 points (42% FG, 80% FT, 50% 3FG), 11.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.3 blocks. In those games, Turkish Thunder was very aggressive around the hoop (4.9 vs. 2.3 shots at the rim between Feb. and Jan.), and choosey about his outside shooting. It’s always good to make more shots when you take more shots, but Ilyasova’s rebounding will be the improved skill that keeps him in the NBA for a long time.
Watching Ersan Ilyasova collect rebounds is like watching a pool shark run a billiards table. Playing the angles and timing his strikes perfectly to over-compensate for his lack of post girth, Ersan has improved his total rebounding rate from 15.5 to 18.4 over the past three seasons.
This season, Ilyasova has hit the offensive glass (12.3 ORR) harder than notable bangers such as Kevin Love (11.5), Tyson Chandler (10.8), and Dwight Howard (10.3). The Bucks shoot like they’re looking for second chance opportunities, but those misses are there for anyone to take and Ilyasova has been Milwaukee’s offensive lifesaver.
He’ll never be a true, back to the basket power forward, but Ersan Ilyasova is showing signs of comfort playing within himself as a solid role player. That’s a great sign for the Milwaukee Bucks of today, and a bad one for the Milwaukee Bucks of tomorrow, when 2012-13 contenders start dialing up Ersan’s agent.