Ersan Ilyasova is a rare breed in the NBA. The Milwaukee Bucks forward is fully capable of scoring 20 points and hauling in 10 or more rebounds on any given night, but rarely does he actually do so. Not consistently, anyway.
It’s very frustrating for a fan base to watch one of its teams most talented players realize his insane potential on occasion while never actually doing it consistently. I’m beginning to think that’s the case with Ilyasova. When new head coach Jim Boylan replaced Scott Skiles in January, he gave Ilyasova the minutes he deserved to be getting all season.
And for a one-week span later that month, it paid off beautifully.
Ilya spilled confidence all over the court during a four-game stretch in which he averaged over 25 points and 12 rebounds a night. The man was getting 15-20 shots a game and the Bucks won three of those four contests. However, Ersanity hasn’t put up 20 points in any game since and pulled in double-digit rebounds just once.
It’s been nine games since that stretch.
So, what happened? Just as the Ilyasova train began to pick up steam, it cooled off again. A confident and therefore dangerous Ersan has again faded into an Ersan that doesn’t see the ball much and rarely create shots for himself when he does get it. But, when you think about it, is that really his fault?
The Bucks’ backcourt, made up of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, is going to spend most of the night creating more shots for itself than its forwards. That’s just how Jennings and Ellis operate. Ellis is currently eighth in the NBA in shots per game (17.4) and Jennings is 13th (16.8). No other teammates are in the top 13 together, let alone a backcourt combo.
But Boylan doesn’t seem to mind his dynamic duo unleashing their fury on the basket night after night, especially when they get locked in. And for as long as Jennings and Ellis remain in Milwaukee (which may not be very long at all), it’ll stay that way.
So, the 6’10”, 230-pound Ilyasova isn’t left with many shot attempts after the two guards get their 17 apiece and a good chunk of the leftovers are really just put-backs off of their missed shots. While Ilyasova may not be great at creating his own shot, he always seems to be open and is extremely efficient when he gets good looks off the pass.
So, pass him the ball. A lot. Give Ilyasova 15-20 shots a game and he just may be able to find a rhythm that he can carry from one game to the next. You’re paying the guy $40 million over five years, it might be a good idea to see if it’s still possible to get your money’s worth before the contract is up.
Doing so will obviously cost Ellis and Jennings a couple buckets a night, but it may also save the organization from a wasted investment and bring in wins more often. Ilyasova has proven he can carry the Bucks when he gets his confidence going, so why not give him a chance to sustain it?
He’s 25 years old and capable of posting lines that fantasy addicts drool over. But for a player like Ilyasova to realize his potential in full, he must be given the right opportunity over a lengthy period of time. Unfortunately, I’m really starting to wonder if that opportunity will ever come in Milwaukee.