MILWAUKEE – Forward Ersan Ilyasova has been on a tear for the Milwaukee Bucks – enough of one, in fact, that there might be interest in him at the NBA’s fast-approaching trading deadline (though Ilyasova will be an unrestricted free agent come July).
The 6-foot-10 power forward from Turkey, still just 24, had averaged 17.1 points and 11.7 rebounds over his last 10 games heading into Milwaukee’s clash vs. Chicago Wednesday night at Bradley Center. He had an active streak of 25 consecutive games with at least one offensive rebound, and he had boosted his 3-point shooting from 29.8 percent last season to 37.3 percent.
A week before the All-Star Game, Ilyasova went for 29 points and 25 rebounds against New Jersey, just the third player in franchise history to log a 25/25 game. In 37 appearances, he had three games with at least 20 points and had led the Bucks on the boards 19 times, compared to four and 11 times respectively in 60 games last season.
Granted, there are more rebounds to be had, with Andrew Bogut out again. But Ilyasova is free of the concussion troubles that cost him 20 games last season and he has improved his focus on the glass and his overall play. It’s safe to say that Ilyasova -– a bargain playing near the end of a three-year, $7 milllion contract -– will get a big raise somewhere this summer, though he has a nice comfort zone in Milwaukee.
“He’s rebounded the ball at a great rate pretty much the whole season,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said before Wednesday’s game. “And he doesn’t take as many ill-advised threes, and that’s had a very positive effect on his game. He’s gone from a 25-to-27 percent 3-point shooter to a plus-35 percent 3-point shooter in large part because he takes good ones now. He’s not running around searching for the line as so many guys do. If he finds it and he’s behind it and his feet are set, he lets it go. Otherwise … from 12-18 feet, when his feet are set, he’s a high-level shooter. He’s kind of found his areas there.”
Was it hard to sell Ilyasova on this more disciplined, higher percentage approach?
“No,” Skiles said bluntly. “He’s in his contract year.”