Milwaukee Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova and when being good isn’t good enough

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 08 (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 08 (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

Veteran Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova‘s role has been increasingly phased out over the last month, leading to questions about what his future holds in Milwaukee beyond this season.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ defeat to the Miami Heat Monday night was notable for reasons beyond the Bucks being handed a rare losing result this season.

In an effort to play smaller and keep up with the Heat’s versatility, veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova got some rare run under head coach Mike Budenholzer. Seeing the floor for close to 14 and a half minutes off the bench, Ilyasova did very little to make good on an increasingly rare opportunity as he scored just one point from the free throw line, pulled down four boards and was a +4 over his shifts.

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Seeing the floor has grown far more erratic for the long-time Bucks veteran over the last few weeks and especially in light of the addition of fellow veteran Marvin Williams, who the Bucks brought on following his buyout from the Charlotte Hornets.

Since the All-Star break, Ilyasova has logged 3 DNP-CDs and 54 total minutes over his four appearances as Budenholzer has sought to integrate Williams into the Bucks’ rotation in what had been Ilyasova’s regular spot behind superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

There are obvious reasons behind why Williams stands as a more reliable option over Ilyasova as the North Carolina product can offer more athleticism and defensive versatility while replicating Ilyasova’s shooting on the other side of the ball (though, Williams has yet to hit his stride on the latter since coming to Milwaukee).

While a very solid positional defender as he has been throughout his career, Ilyasova’s subpar mobility and athleticism has increasingly led to some tough gaffes as he has tried to keep up with far more athletic forwards as the season has gone on.

With all that said, Williams completely supplanting Ilyasova in the rotation may have come as a surprise to some Bucks fans, especially compared to the blazing start Ilyasova got off to near the beginning of the year.

Certainly, Ilyasova’s strong run playing for his native Turkey throughout the summer and into the FIBA World Cup set the stage for what was trending to be his most efficient season of his career. That’s still the case, though not to the overwhelming degree earlier in the year as Ilyasova is averaging 7 points on 37.4 percent shooting from three and a career-high 59.2 true shooting percentage through his 54 appearances on the season.

Of course, there’s been plenty of hot streaks and cold spells along the way and Ilyasova’s hot start had started to fizzle out before the Bucks essentially added his replacement in Williams last month. Throughout his 12 appearances during the month of January, Ilyasova averaged 5.6 points on 38.6 percent shooting from the field and 8-of-26 shooting from three (30.8 percent) while being the lone rotation regular to have a negative net rating over that span, per

Between Ilyasova’s streaky offensive play and his defensive limitations, it’s clear the Bucks wanted to shore up any deficiencies that could have been exploited by opposing teams, especially as the start of the postseason increasingly looms on the horizon.

From that standpoint, Ilyasova’s demotion from the rotation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

The very faint whispers of players the Bucks reportedly had an interest in ahead of the trade deadline last month such as James Johnson and Markieff Morris overlapped with Ilyasova’s position on the depth chart. And then there’s this excerpt which Bleacher Report’s Michael Scotto reported last month as the trade deadline passed by:

"“Holiday also drew trade interest from the Timberwolves before Minnesota acquired D’Angelo Russell, and McDermott was discussed in a separate trade for Milwaukee’s Ersan Ilyasova, league sources told Bleacher Report. It’s unclear which side initiated the McDermott and Ilyasova talks.”"

As Scotto noted, there’s no clear link to which side began talks and the same goes for not knowing how far along any discussions revolving around that specific trade package went.

But considering Ilyasova’s salary for next season doesn’t guarantee until June 27, per Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus, all of this may be setting up for the Turkish veteran’s eventual departure this summer. That’s just pure speculation at this point, but considering how Bucks general manager Jon Horst has looked to maintain flexibility throughout his tenure under similarly structured deals, it looks to be a mere formality on his part.

Even with his playing time becoming more irregular following the break, Ilyasova still has a shot of finishing with the fifth-most appearances in Bucks history if he’s able to surpass Brian Winters (592) by logging nine more appearances over the next six weeks.

Next. George Hill’s blistering 3-point shooting trending downwards. dark

Where that once looked like an inevitability for Ilyasova, it now stands as more of a possibility, though.