The Unpredictable and Inconsistent Ersan Ilyasova


For the past few years, Ersan Ilyasova’s strikingly bipolar play has frustrated fans repeatedly.

In fact, this frustration has been apparent enough to force fans to separate the two players. Nowadays, Ilyasova is either referred to as his given name when he’s playing well, or by nicknames that aren’t as kind when he’s god awful (i.e. Arsen or Hobo Ersan).

This season, we’ve mostly seen the incompetent Arsen. However, Ersan has been coming on strong lately, becoming the invaluable stretch-four that Jason Kidd has always been so infatuated with.

But what exactly are the differences between “Ersan” and “Arsen”?


First of all, Ersan is obivously a much better shooter. Before March this season, Arsen was shooting a poor 31.5%. Since his recent transformation, however, Ersan has shot an impressive 45.3% from behind the arc.

More specifically, he’s more confident in his shot. While confidence can obviously help a player to shoot the ball better, in Ersan’s case it also allows him to add a significant amount of open jumpers each game that Arsen would reluctantly pass up.

Here, Arsen is gifted with an open three from the inattentiveness of Joakim Noah. However, his reluctancy to shoot causes him to pump fake and opt for a step-back, contested, fadeaway, long-two (AKA just about the most inefficient shot in basketball).

But Ersan sees this opportunity differently. You see, he actually recognizes the open shot that a teammate has created for him and, get this, takes it. Points ensue.


Arsen is a slow, plodding defender. He often is targeted by opponents in the pick-and-roll, where it is not uncommon for him to lose his man.

If we ignore the fact that a turnover is forced here, we see a slow-motion hedge followed by a frazzled Arsen losing his man and being forced to switch onto Robert Sacre. His reaction literally looks likes he’s going through the motions. Luckily, Zaza is smart enough to quickly switch, and bails him out with a steal. His body language is terrible, and suggests he isn’t putting in much effort.

This is usually a dealbreaker in Kidd’s system, as the blitzing scheme requires attentive defenders that make quick, decisive movements.

But good Ersan is much more agile and attentive. Here, we see an aggressive hedge (with some odd, yet effective footwork) with his hands up, as a hedge should look like in a Jason Kidd defense. Once the pick is dealt with, Ersan finds his man and runs back to him and prevents a defensive breakdown that would’ve possibly occurred had Arsen been playing.

It makes sense, too, that this defensive effort correlates with his offensive success. He hits some shots, gets more involved in the offense, and therefore plays defense with more aggression and attention.

Defensive Rebounding

Along with improved defense and shooting, Ersan is a much better defensive rebounder than Arsen. In the month of March, Ersan has a 21.1 DRB%, putting him ahead of tenacious rebounders like Zach Randolph and Roy Hibbert.

This is a stark contrast to Arsen’s 17.8 DREB% prior to the month of March this year, along with plays like this:

Again, when Ersan is doing what he should be best at, spacing the floor and knocking down shots, we can see noticeable differences in the other parts of his game that can be flaky sometimes. In this case, it’s his effort on the defensive glass, and the impact is palatable.

Why Do These Two Separate Players Exist?

It is unknown why Ilyasova is so bipolar in his play. Some might say that injuries are the cause of his stretches of poor play. Others will say he is a second-half player.

But I choose to believe that Arsen and Ersan are two completely separate human beings. Being identical twins, they play for each other when the other is on vacation. Unfortunately, the team hasn’t discovered this yet and consequently suffers from Arsen-itis periodically each season. But that’s just what I choose to believe.

Regardless of what is actually the cause of his two drastically different games, his change in play since the beginning of March is proving to be an important and entertaining story for the Bucks this season that could prove to be valuable come playoff time.

Next: Time To Cut Michael Carter-Williams Some Slack

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