Mired in a slump and surpassed on the team by the recent emergence of D.J. Wilson, the Milwaukee Bucks should consider moving Ersan Ilyasova at the trade deadline.
The NBA Trade Deadline is upon us, and like every team around the league, the Milwaukee Bucks are looking for ways to improve their roster however they can.
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Still, there’s another player who I’d argue should also be on the trading block: power forward Ersan Ilyasova.
The Bucks brought Ilyasova back to Milwaukee this summer, after a prior seven-year stint with the club, on a three-year, $21 million contract.
The hope, when Ilyasova signed, was that he would work as an effective stretch four who could rebound and play competent defense for 18-24 minutes per game. Ilyasova was supposed to be one of the key rotation guys that would help the Bucks maintain a high level when their star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, went to the bench.
Ilyasova’s second stint in Milwaukee, however, has not gone according to plan. Though he started off the season around his career averages, his production has dropped off precipitously since the month of November, coinciding with a couple of spells on the sidelines.
Ilyasova first suffered a mild concussion at the end of November that kept him out for several games. Then, shortly after returning from that injury, he sustained a broken nose in practice that required surgery and kept him out for an even longer period of time. Ilyasova has not been able to get back to his usual self yet since returning from those injuries.
In the games between and after his injuries, Ilyasova’s production fell off of a cliff. After shooting 52.1 percent from the floor in October, and 44.6 percent in November, Ilyasova shot a horrid 27.8 percent from the floor in five December games. His shot wasn’t much better in January either, as Ilyasova shot just 41 percent from the floor and an awful 29.2 percent from three.
Ilyasova’s trademark on offense, his ability to stretch the floor, has all but disappeared after his injuries. It’s not just rust when his shot has been missing for 20 games. It’s a full-blown shooting slump.
The Bucks can ill afford to play someone who cannot hit wide-open shots with any regularity. Without his jump shot, Ilyasova provides little else of value on the offensive end. Additionally, his defense isn’t good enough on its own to justify him playing.
Ilyasova’s own struggles, however, are far from the only reason why he’s suddenly become expendable. Ilyasova has also been surpassed in production and value by forward/center D.J. Wilson.
During Ilyasova’s second injury absence, Wilson emerged out of nowhere to show himself to be an effective 3-and-D stretch big man. In his 23 appearances this season, Wilson is averaging 6.2 points, 4.6 boards, and 0.7 blocks in a little over 18 minutes per game. He’s shooting over 47.5 percent from the floor and an impressive 44.1 percent from deep on 2.3 attempts per game.
Wilson has not only taken over the minutes that Thon Maker used to occupy when Brook Lopez went to the bench, but also the minutes that Ilyasova had before his injury.
D.J.’s providing far better floor spacing than Ilyasova can provide, and his overall defensive contribution far exceeds anything that Ilyasova can do too. As I discussed at the beginning of January, Wilson has emerged as one of the essential rotation guys on the team. His sustaining that level for over 20 games suggests it may not be an aberration either.
So, what kind of value does Ilyasova have if the Bucks decided to try and move him? Right now, it’s unclear.
lyasova’s contract is, for all intents and purposes, an expiring contract after the 2019-20 season since his third year is non-guaranteed. At $7 million per year, his salary isn’t unmovable by any means, especially given the non-guaranteed third year.
At that money, Ilyasova would make a good fit for financial purposes in any potential trade the Bucks could make. A team such as the Atlanta Hawks, for example, may be willing to take him on if the Bucks decided to move for their center, Dewayne Dedmon. Ilyasova’s salary would help make any potential deal work, though other pieces would certainly need to be involved.
Ilyasova’s slump, through prolonged, is also likely to end at some point soon. A team out of contention wouldn’t have much to lose by taking him on and trying to rehab his value ahead of this summer.
Regardless of what he may be worth, and there’s no doubt this would be a low ebb, the Bucks need to consider moving on. That doesn’t mean they need to panic into packaging him with picks to move his salary, but Ilyasova should be a salary starting point in any potential larger deals.
Between his struggles and the emergence of Wilson, it may not make sense for Milwaukee to hang on to Ilyasova for too much longer.