Ersan Ilyasova has been one of the major reasons for Barcelona's ascension back into the European basketball elite, but you wouldn't have known from this weekend. Ersan managed just two points and five boards in 13 minutes of Barca's 82-78 semifinal loss to defending champs CSKA Moscow, and then added seven points and three boards in 10 minutes as Barca bounced back to thrash Olympiacos 95-79 in the third place game.
Ersan's minutes were limited both by foul trouble and the terrific play of Aussie teammate David Andersen, who was sensational playing in yet another Euroleague Final Four. Andersen scored 24 against his former club on Friday before leading Barca with 20 against Olympiacos, who incidentally got 19 from former Buck Lynn Greer.
Overall it's been an up-and-down couple of week for Ilyasova, who had a huge 24/13 effort in a loss to Spanish leaders TAU Ceramica in Barcelona's last game before heading to Berlin for the Euro finals. What are the chances Ilyasova is back in Milwaukee? That depends on a few things:
1) The fate of the current roster. Ilyasova's not a banger per se but he's developed into a scrappy, hard-nosed player who can hit threes and will get to more than his share of rebounds (he's currently third in the Spanish league in boards). In other words, if Charlie Villanueva signs elsewhere then the Bucks could certainly use a guy like Ersan as cover at the 4. Then again, with Luke Ridnour and Richard Jefferson on the trading block, there's at least a chance that the Bucks could acquire a power forward help through a trade. Still, I wouldn't expect the Bucks to acquire a long-term starter that way unless they're willing to take on a long-term deal and/or give up more than just Ridnour or RJ.
2) The draft. Unfortunately it doesn't look like there will be a ton of options at the PF spot when the Bucks pick, in all likelihood at the 10th spot. Ignoring consensus number one pick Blake Griffin, you've got the possibly overrated Jordan Hill projected in the top five, tweener Earl Clark in the late lottery, Pitt's beast DeJuan Blair in the middle of the first, and a slew of eye-of-the-beholder types who could go anywhere thereafter.
I'm kind of intrigued by Kentucky's Patrick Patterson, but pretty much everyone has major question marks. Patterson appears a bit short at 6'8", but he's supposed to have a 7'2" wingspan and he was very productive as a post player at UK. Blair is probably the most intriguing guy because he was the most productive player in college basketball last season, pulling down an incredible 12.3 rpg in just 27 mpg. But he's listed at 6'7" and 265, so the obvious question is how well his numbers will translate against bigger, more athletic guys who can't be bullied quite so easily.
As I mentioned on Thursday, point guard is where the draft's real depth appears to be. If the Bucks take a chance on a player like Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings, or Stephen Curry, then it would likely lower the amount they'd be willing to give Ramon Sessions, who could be offered a starting salary of up to the MLE from another team. And if the Bucks take their PG of the future in the lottery, what becomes of Sessions? If they let him walk (yikes) then they'd have money to spend on Ilyasova (see below).
3) How much does Ilyasova want to be in the NBA? Even if the Bucks let both Villanueva and Sessions walk, the odds are the Bucks will not have much to offer Ilyasova--especially given that he'll probably command $3-4 million net of taxes from European clubs.
Assuming Francisco Elson and Malik Allen take their 09/10 player options and Salim Stoudamire's deal is guaranteed at the minimum, the Bucks will have $65.296 million committed to 11 guys. Add in the max rookie scale number of the 10th pick in the draft ($2.259 million) and you're at $67.556 million. If the tax threshold stays at $71 million (possibly the best case scenario right now) that leaves only $3.44 million to sign Sessions, Ilyasova, and anyone else for that matter, like the Bucks' second round pick. Which is probably why the Bucks are being so non-commital about their ability to bring back Sessions--and why they should be doing everything they can to convince Elson and Allen that greener pastures await them in free agency (doubful).
If Ersan just wants to make money then staying in Europe seems an obvious choice. But if he wants to be in the NBA then how much of a discount is he willing to take? If the Bucks take a PF in the draft then I don't see the Bucks having any interest to begin with--not for now at least--but if they take a point guard and are willing to wave goodbye to Sessions they could certainly make an offer.
But is $2 or $3 million enough considering that's pre-tax and Ilyasova could make just as much after tax in Europe? Keep in mind his wife is from Milwaukee and he still has a house here, not to mention that Dave Babcock drafted him and John Hammond has now traveled to see him a couple times. I'm guessing he'll once again be back working out at the Cousins Center this summer, but whether he again dons a Bucks jersey remains very unclear.