Milwaukee Bucks: Grades for Ersan Ilyasova’s three-year, $21 million deal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 05: (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 05: (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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MIAMI, FL – MARCH 08: (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL – MARCH 08: (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) /


Ilyasova will be asked to fill the role the Bucks had hoped Mirza Teletovic would be filling when they signed him back in 2016.

While the Turk doesn’t quite offer the caliber of sharpshooting Teletovic boasted, Ilyasova will be a more than capable floor spacing presence who offers a major defensive upgrade over the Bucks’ previous backup power forward.

Ilyasova’s positional defense has only grown more impressive and more highly valued since he left the Bucks in 2015, and it’s worth noting that he was one of the key cogs discarded by Milwaukee that summer which ultimately led to the league’s second best defense crumbling to become the 22nd best over the course of a year.

Unlike in his previous tenure with the Bucks, Ilyasova won’t be looked to as a starter. Instead, he’ll be asked to soak up frontcourt minutes off the bench, which is by no means an insignificant role in Milwaukee. The Bucks lacked players capable of doing that last season, which not only left them exposed in bench lineups but also left little opportunity to reduce a crippling minutes load for superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Ilyasova’s experience will allow him to slot in as a reliever of sorts for Antetokounmpo, but he may also be paired alongside the Greek in some more inventive lineups.

As ESPN’s Kevin Pelton noted in his appraisal of the deal:

"“One interesting development last season was Ilyasova playing center as part of the Philadelphia 76ers’ small lineups in Joel Embiid‘s absence, and Ilyasova-Giannis Antetokounmpo frontcourts could be potent offensively.”"

What’s guaranteed by Ilyasova’s arrival, and now secure regardless of what ultimately happens with Jabari Parker, is the Bucks will have depth and options in the frontcourt next season. That’s definitely an improvement.