This is the fifth profile in a 16-part series running Wednesdays and Fridays profiling each Milwaukee Bucks player leading up to the start of the NBA season.
Little did Ersan Ilyasova know just how much a sprained right ankle suffered in the first preseason game of 2013-14 would impact the rest of his year. Last season was almost a total loss for the now 27-year-old, as his production dipped and shooting woes lingered.
Ilyasova has been surrounded by trade rumors ever since he signed a five-year extension with the Bucks in the summer of 2012, and this offseason was no different. But the Turkish forward is back for his sixth consecutive season in Milwaukee, making him the longest-tenured player on the roster by far.
2013-14 stats: 11.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 40.9 FG %, 82.3 FT %, 28.2 3PT % over 26.9 MPG in 55 games
2014-15 salary: $7,900,000
Last year: Ilyasova went down in a heap during a preseason game on Oct. 8 in Cleveland, suffering a severely sprained right ankle. He missed Milwaukee’s final seven exhibition contests but pushed himself to be ready in time for the start of the regular season.
Later admitting he came back too soon, Ilyasova played in the first three games of the season. He then needed to sit out the next six, as lingering ankle issues caused Ilyasova to miss 16 games during the course of the year before he was eventually shut down in late March.
Ilyasova was clearly affected by the injury when he was on the court. After finishing fourth in the NBA in 3-point percentage (44.4 percent) in 2012-13, Ilyasova hit just 28.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc last season. The ankle pain prevented him from being able to elevate on his jump shot, the primary strength of his game. He also rarely practiced, which likely contributed to his in-game struggles.
As a stretch four, Ilyasova needs to be able to knock down 3-point shots to have value. He didn’t provide much of anything to the Bucks last season, but that likely had a lot to do with the lingering ankle issues.
This year: Ilyasova skipped playing for Turkey in the FIBA World Cup to prepare his ankle for the upcoming season.
The addition of Jabari Parker crowds the power forward position, as the No. 2 overall pick is undoubtedly going to see the floor. It is going to be hard for the Bucks to not start Parker, meaning Ilyasova could find himself coming off the bench, a role he hasn’t fared particularly well in over his career.
Ilyasova has proven he can be one of the best stretch fours in the NBA when healthy. The Bucks really lacked a player who could stretch the defense last season, something Ilyasova could add if his shot returns to form. New coach Jason Kidd inherits plenty of different pieces, and it will be interesting to see how he mixes and matches his lineups. The Bucks have three different types of power forwards in Parker, Ilyasova and John Henson — a scorer, a shooter and a defensive option.
For Ilyasova, his usefulness comes down to whether or not he can knock down the 3-point shot. He’s a good rebounder and has a knack for crashing the offensive glass, but he has to shoot the ball well to help the Bucks.
Ilyasova is owed close to $16 million over the next two seasons with a team option for 2016-17 at $8.4 million. His name comes up often in trade rumors because he would be a valuable asset to teams looking to contend right now. The question is, how much value does he bring to the Bucks in their current state? Milwaukee is certainly better off playing Parker and Henson heavy minutes if it truly is in a rebuilding mode.
That’s not to say Ilyasova can’t help this team, because he has the ability to score somewhere around 15-18 points per game if he shoots well. If he shows he can return to form after an injury-filled season, Ilyasova might be of interest to teams at the trade deadline.
"I really rushed myself to get back for the first game of the season. That game I remember I twisted my ankle four or five times. I tried to push myself. It was just really awkward. It just really built up, and our schedule doesn’t help. I was struggling the whole season with it. I want to fix it and be ready (for next season)." — Ilyasova on his ankle injury following last season