Milwaukee Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova’s bid to return back into rotation

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 27: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 27: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Ersan Ilyasova was cast out of the Milwaukee Bucks’ rotation just before the season suspension. Will that carry over once plays resumes next month?

When we last saw the Milwaukee Bucks in action before the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to the 2019-20 season, Ersan Ilyasova was far from a featured player in the team’s rotation.

The midseason acquisition of Marvin Williams had necessitated Ilyasova’s exile from the deep rotation that Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer regularly deploys and it didn’t help that the Turkish veteran’s play and efficiency had dropped off precipitously since the turn of 2020.

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To that point, Ilyasova averaged 4.6 points per game on 37.6 percent shooting from the field (14-for-42 from three, 91.3 percent from the free throw line), 4.2 rebounds and 0.6 assists across 351 total minutes since the calendar year turned.

That two-month downturn hasn’t affected what still remains Ilyasova’s most efficient campaign throughout his career, as evidenced by his 59.1 true shooting percentage. But it was increasingly clear that Ilyasova’s hot start had gone cold for some time.

Now, what will be four-and-a-half months after their last game, the Bucks and 21 other NBA teams are destined for Orlando to resume the season at Walt Disney World.

In what essentially equates to an offseason break, though with some of those months leaving players without access to practice facilities in all markets, the down time may have disrupted the Bucks’ playoff push ahead of the start of the postseason.

On the other hand, the Bucks were on the cusp of preparing for another deep playoff run with a veteran-laden squad and Ilyasova stood as one of the bigger beneficiaries for some unexpected rest and relaxation.

Having been out of form when the season was suspended, Milwaukee Bucks veteran Ersan Ilyasova could benefit from the chance to rest in recent months.

After all, Ilyasova had essentially been playing high-level basketball for nearly a year-and-a-half, between his return to Milwaukee and playing for his country, Turkey, in the lead up and during the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. While all of those experiences, especially playing for his country, certainly fueled the hot start that Ilyasova enjoyed, one can only wonder whether Ilyasova’s durability or some kind of physical burnout could have influenced his cold streak before the season suspension.

Of course, we’ll never have the answer to those questions with the season being disrupted in the way that it has been. From that standpoint, this reset couldn’t have come at a better time for Ilyasova as the Bucks will load up to resume their championship pursuit. But whether Ilyasova will have the chance to fight for his job backing up superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the big question when the action resumes.

There are certain athletic and defensive advantages the Bucks now have that have come with bringing Williams into the fold that Ilyasova doesn’t carry. At the same time, though, we didn’t see Williams find his comfort level offensively and his 3-point shooting stroke hadn’t traveled to Milwaukee from Charlotte to this point.

The same certainly applied to Ilyasova when we last saw him obviously and with all of that in mind, it will be fascinating to watch just how Budenholzer handles the team’s rotation and backup forward minutes behind Antetokounmpo in the coming weeks.

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One can only hope that this down period helped Ilyasova recharge both mentally and physically after an extensive stretch of playing basketball. Whether that will result in a re-entry into the Bucks’ rotation remains to be seen.