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Ilyasova finding his groove

What's big, pale, and sells tons of PCs in Turkey? (h/t oshmeehan!)

Given all the attention justifiably focused on Brandon Jennings these days, it's easy to overlook all the other Bucks stepping up their games. Andrew Bogut? OK, the big fella is kind of tough to miss, especially when his November averages are 19.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, and 2.3 bpg on .596/.714 (!) shooting. But to most the Bucks look more or less like a two-man team right now, with the main questions being how long they can keep it up and how Michael Redd's theoretical return might change the equation.

The truth of course is that Jennings and Bogut are getting plenty of help, though it might not be coming in ways that stand out on Sportscenter (ie scoring points). Among those coming around: Ersan Ilyasova. While he's still looking ragged at times with his shot selection and handle, the Turk has been hitting the glass relentlessly, notching a team-leading 18.2% rebound rate and scoring high marks for scraptasticness and sticktuitiveness. That's also translated into some solid traditional stats as well, as Ilyasova's per-40 numbers currently stand at 18.3 ppg and 13.3 rpg.

Should we be surprised? Not really. Hitting threes, fighting for rebounds, and doing the little things were exactly what made Ilyasova a hot commodity in Europe over the past two seasons. And while there were some rough moments in the preseason and the first couple games--an airballed three in the waning seconds in Chicago come to mind--he's getting closer to finding the necessary balance between aggression and control. First came 13 rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes against the Knicks, followed by 17 points on eight shots, eight boards and two blocks against the Nuggets. His shooting splits (.415/.375/.889) still aren't anything to write home about, but he's doing enough damage from deep to get his true shooting percentage up to a respectable 53.4%.

Beyond the individual numbers, the Bucks are also utterly destroying opponents with Ilyasova on the court, though these figures admittedly are biased by the big minutes he got against New York. On a per 100 possessons basis, the Bucks are outscoring opponents by 21.2 pts, compared to a -3.8 pts with Ilyasova on the bench. Those numbers are just downright silly and won't last, but it provides some insight into just how well Ilyasova's re-adapted to the NBA game.

On defense, he's a typical Buck--all hustle, scrappiness and positioning, which makes up for a lack of top-shelf athleticism. He's been fouling a lot (3.2 pg in just under 18 mpg) but some of that is a byproduct of aggressive help defense and getting on the business end of plenty of block/charge calls. He's already taken a bunch of charges in the first six games (is there an up-to-date tracker of this?), though his willingness to get mowed over has also earned him more than is share of blocking fouls. Either way, I'm sure Bogut is proud.

Offensively, he's done almost all his damage off catch-and-shoot and putbacks, while also showing good court awareness and the ability to find the open man (his assist rate is in the top third of both PFs and SFs). The threat of his jumper should begin to open up more opportunities to fake the shot and put it on the floor, but so far he's looked a bit out-of-control in those situations. His range has also proven a nice complement to the mid-range, slashing style of Hakim Warrick, who got the early hook from Skiles against the Knicks for some lax perimeter defense on Danilo Gallinari.

Going into the season I had hoped that Ilyasova could win the starting PF spot, the thinking being that Warrick could then provide a scoring punch off the bench while Ilyasova lent his perimeter shooting and work rate to the starting five. But it was clear from the preseason that Ilyasova wasn't quite ready yet, and it's hard to argue with Skiles' forward rotation given how well the team has been playing. I'm not expecting Skiles to change things up while the formula is working, but I've been disappointed by Delfino's start and we may very well see an Ilyasova/Mbah a Moute forward line at some point. Fortunately, the Bucks have time. Ilyasova's three-year deal will keep him in Milwaukee through at least 2012, and at just over $7 million total for that span, it looks like he's going to be a bargain.