Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova is in a contract year. He is already on record of saying whoever pays most will probably win his services following this season when he enters free agency; only recently, as his numbers continue to demand attention at an optimal time in lieu of the trade deadline — exactly one week away — does it appear like the Bucks might have to seriously consider moving him for something in return.
Ilyasova hit a career-high in scoring in last night’s latest submission to the Milwaukee Bucks Excruciating Loss Series with 32 points (and 10 boards) on an absurd 14-for-18 shooting from the floor. In late February he hung a 29 point, 25 rebound performance on the New Jersey Nets, and since the All-Star break he’s averaging close to 18 points (shooting 56 percent from the field) with 11 boards to boot in 34 minutes a night. Ilyasova’s been at this really since February began, where he averaged a double-double for the month in only about 30 minutes on the floor, but now, something must be done.
As mentioned, the Bucks have been an exhibition in one horrific way to lose or squander a basketball game after another this season (this trend dates back further than that actually), and talk is beginning to seep up through the cracks that this team — thought to be a possible up-and-comer in the East just a few years ago after nearly getting past the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2010 playoffs — might need to be reset. Ilyasova is, other than Brandon Jennings and the possibly voodoo doll-cursed forever Andrew Bogut, the best piece Milwaukee can bring to the trade market, especially with his play of late. If the plan is to blow the thing up, Ersan is one of the few options the Bucks have when it comes to trying to collect assets for a full-scale rebuilding project.
Of course, the other option would be trying to lock Ersan in long-term. It’s just, why would he do that? With forwards Drew Gooden and defensive stopper Luc Richard Mbah a Moute already secured in Milwaukee through the 2015 season, Ilyasova would always be splitting minutes, maybe more than elsewhere. And then there’s the whole reset thing; the Bucks don’t appear to be anything close to world-beaters right now or for the foreseeable future, and since they likely wouldn’t offer the biggest contract to Ilyasova with two forwards already in tow, it seems his reasons for resigning in Cream City would be minimal.
When Ilyasova spoke of his impending free agency, he also mentioned the European market, which will try to lure him away from the NBA. This is another reason the Bucks, if they’re honest with themselves, should probably look to sell high with Ersan Ilyasova before the trade deadline. Sad as it is to see a player like Ilyasova — a guy who seemingly makes a pattern of being in the right spot for a crucial rebound, who somehow springs through a blanket of enemy jerseys to secure possession or reset the shot clock, and who, aside from being a master of getting sneaky garbage points, is also hitting 39 percent from three this season — a player you may actually want as a building block for a young team, go elsewhere, the timing of his play and contract situation may leave Milwaukee with no other choice. If the Bucks can get something of value in return, Ilyasova’s major upticks could be coming at the right time for everyone involved. But either way, he’ll probably end up somewhere else.
Griffin Gotta contributes to The Hoop Doctors and is a co-managing editor of Straight Outta Vancouver. The story arcs and infinite weirdness of the NBA are addictions he deals with every day. Email him at griffingotta at gmail dot com.