Ersan Ilyasova : Why The Milwaukee Bucks Got Caught Up in Ersanity

By Bobby Malecki

The Milwaukee Bucks recently re-signed PF Ersan Ilyasova to a 5 yr./$45 million dollar contract. Prior to re-signing Ersan Ilyasova, PF John Henson from the University of North Carolina fell on the Bucks lap on draft night at #14 overall.

Henson has immense talent and you cannot fault the Bucks for jumping at the opportunity to draft him after he slipped down to them. After drafting Henson, it was a fair assumption that the Bucks would not pursue the idea of bringing Ilyasova back into the fold.


As has been the case for the Bucks’ organization over the last decade, I fear this is another case of the Bucks front office doling out bad paper and investing in a high-risk, low-reward player.

This disturbing trend can be traced all the way back to the big money extension given to Michael Redd and the trend continued with throwing lucrative deals at the likes of; Bobby Simmons, Mo ‘Don’t Call me Maurice’ Williams, Dan Gadzuric, Charlie Bell and most recently John Salmons, which led to the nightmarish revolving door at shooting guard over the next couple of seasons.

Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson anybody?

Now with Monta Ellis onboard to pair with Brandon Jennings to form an exciting, dynamic and lightning quick back court, the Bucks were starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Early in the week of the 2012 NBA Rookie Draft, the Bucks continued to acquire solid pieces by acquiring the ‘Haitian Sensation’, C Samuel Dalembert in a trade with the Houston Rockets.

This gave Milwaukee much needed size, rebounding and depth in the front court. On draft night they were also able to land Kentucky’s Doron Lamb, an athletic guard with dead-eye shooting at #42 overall. Lamb appears to be a nice complement off the bench to relieve Jennings and Ellis.

Bringing us full circle back to the man of the hour in Ilyasova.

Why throw $9 million p/year at an unproven PF over the next half-decade after drafting a PF with huge upside, exceptional length, superior athleticism and star potential in Henson? Henson is a three-year collegiate player, who is NBA-ready, not an 18-year old out of high school that needs a couple years of seasoning.

It makes zero sense.

If the plan all along was to retain Ilyasova, wouldn’t drafting Kentucky’s Terrence Jones at #14 make a whole lot more sense? The Bucks are sorely lacking an athletic, offensively competent wing player at the moment.

There’s a gaping hole at the starting SF position. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is a great sixth man, no more, no less, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is strictly a defensive stopper with limited offensive skills.

Throwing money at Ersan adds to the growing number of ‘bigs’ on the Bucks roster as currently constructed.

Outside of Ersan, Dalembert and Henson that have already been mentioned, the Bucks have an emerging third-year PF/C in Larry Sanders; PF/C Epke Udoh, who showed flashes of brilliance in a Bucks uniform after coming over with Ellis in the Bogut deal; and veteran PF/C Drew Gooden.

Milwaukee also has a promising talent in second-year Tennessee SF/PF Tobias Harris.

To be clear, I think Ersan is a solid starter-worthy NBA player. By all accounts, he seems to be a legit human being and his work ethic has never been questioned. But I do not buy for a millisecond that Ersan Ilyasova is a cornerstone to a consistently successful NBA franchise, which is exactly what this signing represents.

Milwaukee’s biggest game of the season last year was at the Bradley Center against the New York Knicks on April 11th. It was a must-win game in their pursuit of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the opportunity to play a Derrick Rose-less Bulls team in the first-round. Ersan shrunk in the moment. Final box score: 14 minutes, 1-3 shooting; 3 points, 2 rebounds.

Granted its one game, but let us remember that his ‘career’ season of last year consisted of 13 ppg/8.8 rpg in a lockout shortened season, when in all reality, Ersan’s breakthrough was really a magnificent HALF of a lock out shortened season!

Is this the player you want to be one of the cornerstones of your franchise? Not me. Not me especially with this current roster. Not me, when their entire focus should be on extending Jennings.

If GM John Hammond has one more deal up his sleeve that unloads one, if not two of their gluttony of ‘bigs’, than this deal may be viewed differently, but as of right now, this deal reeks of yet another poor personnel decision by the Bucks organization investing long-term in a player with a limited upside.

Signings like this will only continue the misery for an already tortured Milwaukee fan base.

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