Ersan Ilyasova's future, Brandon Knight and John Wall duel in UK alumni game

Paul Abell-US PRESSWIRE

Ersan Ilyasova will be a key contributor for the Bucks next year--but could he be even more useful as a trade chip?

HOOPSWORLD | Kyler: Ilyasova in demand
So how exactly does Ersan Ilyasova fit in the Bucks' long-term plans? That's a question I've wondered about all summer, as his fate figures to be hugely telling about the Bucks' direction over the next year or two.

So let's start with the rumor and innuendo: Hoops World's Steve Kyler reported a month ago that the Bucks remained bullish on Ilyasova despite the promise of John Henson, though this week he writes that Ilyasova could be shopped if things don't go as planned this season.

Sources close to the situation say that virtually every team in the league has called at one point this summer about Ilyasova, so if the Bucks struggle to get Ilyasova back to the form that earned him his current long-term deal, don’t be surprised to see him and his three years and $24.2 million remaining dangled around, especially if the rumored plan to play [John] Henson and [Larry] Sanders together becomes the norm in Milwaukee.

Publicly, John Hammond and company haven't made Ilyasova a focal point of their talking points this summer, but he's always part of the conversation, usually with some joke about how the 26-year-old veteran is the elder statesman (ZANG) of the Bucks' promising frontline. So Ilyasova is still here, they like him, but in terms of commitments he's not Larry Sanders either. Fair enough.

So how should Ilyasova fit in the Bucks' grand scheme? While he may not be the Bucks' best player, dealing him for future assets (a 1st rounder, an "upside" player?) and installing Henson as starter would be the simplest way to tip the Bucks' delicate compete/rebuild balance more towards future development. Hint: that's why so many fans would like to see the Bucks move him even if they like his game well enough, and it's also why the Bucks aren't quite ready to let go of him. After all, it's not that Ilyasova is past his prime or otherwise can't get better; slow starts the past two seasons have masked the much bigger numbers he's put up after the all-star break, and he should be in his prime for the remainder of his current deal.

But he also has a number of traits which make him the most obvious centerpiece for a big Bucks' trade. For one, he's good enough for other teams to be interested, and it's not just his productivity which is important. Ilyasova's unique skillset--he can bury threes, rebound competently and isn't a complete pushover on defense--means he can fit in on pretty much any roster in the league. Hence all those phone calls Kyler mentions. In other words, maybe we should worry a bit less about the shots Ilyasova isn't creating and give him a bit more credit for all the one's he's making.

And while he's not grossly underpaid by any means, he's shown he can earn his current paycheck each of the past two seasons and is locked up for another three more with what amounts to a team option thereafter. In a league where the premium on deep shooting is only increasing, Ilyasova figures to have good value so long as he's shooting the ball reasonably well.

So why deal him if he brings all those nice things to the table? Well, the possibility of Henson ultimately being better than him is a big part of it. He's not there yet, but you can understand why a younger, more athletic shot-blocker with a soft touch around the basket would be considered more appealing as a long-term asset. That might be underappreciating the good player Ilyasova already is, but in a star-driven league it's easy to let the potentially great be the enemy of the proven good. Moreover, Ilyasova's insane three-point percentages the past two years seem ripe for some mean reversion, though we admittedly said the same thing heading into last season. What if his confidence goes in the tank again to start this season, only this time he doesn't regain it come January? In that scenario the Bucks would likely regret not dealing him when his value was relatively strong, a problem the Bucks have regularly confronted in recent years.

So here's something all Bucks fans should hope for: Larry Drew and company do their best to feature Ilyasova more prominently in the offense, the Ersanator finds his stride early (as opposed to say, January), and Henson still finds enough minutes backing up Ilyasova and Larry Sanders to show that he can be a high-quality starter and then some. All of which would leave the Bucks with a very valuable commodity come February: options.

USA Today | John Wall bests Brandon Knight in Kentucky Alumni Game
John Wall's 40 points, 10 assists and 10 boards stole the show at the annual Kentucky Alumni Game, though Brandon Knight held his own with 30 points (12/25 fg, 6/11 threes) and seven assists. Based on the highlights below, defense was decidedly (and unsurprisingly) optional in the annual charity event, which raised over $1 million and also featured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones and Patrick Patterson among others. Knight's post-game presser is also online, though it's all UK talk and nothing about the Bucks.

Sheridan Hoops | 13/14 Bucks Preview (by yours truly)
I wrote a couple thousand words about what to watch out for with the Bucks this season.

Bucksketball | Power ranking the Milwaukee Bucks new roster: 10-15
This is fun.

Hoop Rumors | Bucks and Suns interested in Royal Ivey
A few days after tweeting that the Bucks had shown interest in Hassan Whiteside, Alex Kennedy tweeted the same about former Buck Royal Ivey this week. Not noted in the tweet is that both teams already have 15 guaranteed contracts and Ivey isn't any good, which means the Bucks could offer him a gig as a training camp body but not much else.

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