A Milwaukee Bucks Big 3? Don't Get Drunk On The Idea Just Yet

Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis seem like a reasonably interesting duo, but what if you put Ersan Ilyasova at the top of this pyramid?

Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and Ersan Ilyasova constitute the ninth-best trio in the NBA? The Milwaukee Bucks have the ninth-best trio of players in the NBA?!? If you look at the combined Player Efficiency Ratings (PERs) for the each team in the league from last season and put in a few basic requirements -- all three top players must have a PER 17.5 or better for the team to qualify and some top free agents weren't included -- a new Big 3 may be emerging in Milwaukee, at least according to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.

After breaking down trios across the NBA, Haberstroh found the Bucks have the No. 9 triumvirate in the league going by combined PER (they actually had the eighth-highest total, but Haberstroh put the Grizzlies in the No. 8 spot for unknown reasons). The most interesting thing is that Ersan Ilyasova graded out as the top banana (20.6 PER), ahead of Jennings (18.5) and Ellis (17.5).

The only teams that produced better combined PER numbers in the exercise were the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and the world champion Miami Heat. So...who's ready for a championship run?

Actually, LeBron James (30.8) and Dwyane Wade (26.4) boast a higher combined PER than the "Big 3" of the Bucks on their own, so it's wise to pump the brakes a bit before even moving on to the fact that Ilyasova grades out as the best player on the Bucks in this analysis. But let's cede to Haberstroh the first words:

Even though Jennings and Ellis might chip the rim with all of their missed shots next season, the Bucks are quietly building a foundation that is bordered with youngsters in the frontcourt (John Henson, Ekpe Udoh, and Larry Sanders). People forget that Ilyasova averaged 16 points and nine rebounds and shot better than 50 percent from 3-point range after the All-Star break. And he just turned 25.

So there it is: don't forget what Ersan Ilyasova has already done in his career. That makes for an interesting proposition, honestly. Before the 2011-12 season, he had never posted a PER higher than 15.7 (league average is scaled to 15). The average PER for power forwards that played 20+ min/gm in 11-12 was 16.8. That changes the tenor of the whole exercise, doesn't it? By Haberstroh's own standards, Ilyasova wouldn't have even qualified for the analysis in three out of four NBA seasons.

Although it's tempting to indulge the Big 3 idea at the moment (especially after the Bucks committed long-term cash to Ersan), perhaps it's not the most constructive way to structure the current team in our minds.

The reasons are manifold. Jennings, Ellis and Ilyasova are not stars. Ilyasova's contract doesn't preclude the Bucks from adding a true star if the opportunity ever arises. If we use any other season from Ersan for the PER analysis, it turns the exercise into a joke. PER is a box score metric that obscures defensive impact. Example: Drew Gooden posted an 18.83 PER last season.

Steve von Horn, Dan Sinclair and Frank Madden discuss all this and much more in the latest edition of the Brew Hoop Podcast. Don't you want to find out why Steve uses the phrase "systemically diseased offense?" Of course you do!

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