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Eurobasket: Ilyasova, Ukic among day one winners

Update: Having had the chance to watch the Turkey game on replay, I've added my Ilyasova observations after the jump.

Ersan Ilyasova got off to a good start on the opening day of the 2009 European Championships, scoring 17 pts (6/13 fg, 1/3 threes, 4/4 ft) along with a game-high six boards in 29 minutes to help Turkey score a somewhat surprising 84-76 win over Lithuania. You can watch a replay of the game over at ESPN 360 and it should also be archived soon at the official FIBA TV website, where you can stream all the games throughout the tournament for $25.

New Buck Roko Ukic was also a day one winner, scoring 13 points (6/11 fg, 1/3 threes, 0/3 ft) along with a couple dimes in Croatia's 86-79 win over Israel. 

  • Ilyasova started at PF and was matched up most of the night with one of the Lavrinovic twins, who each stand about 6'10" and 225 pounds.  Neither twin seemed very interested in doing anything but spotting up for jumpers (they took a total of only five shots, making four), so it wasn't very instructive in terms of showing off Ilyasova's defensive tools. 

    In the first half he also guarded center Marijonas Petravicius on a handful of possessions, looking overmatched physically against the burly Lithuanian.  Then again, that was a common theme for the Turks, who were bullied by Petravicius all night to the tune of 21 points on just nine shots.  It reminded me a little of when he had to occasionally guard TAU's Tiago Splitter in Spain--Ilyasova's pretty strong and feisty, but he's not going to be able to defend low-post centers.    

    Ilyasova also guarded Linas Kleiza at times in the final quarter, an interesting matchup considering Kleiza's carved out a nice niche in the NBA as a combo forward.  However, there weren't any fireworks to speak of, with the only notable action coming when Ilyasova bit on a pump fake that led to a Kleiza runner in the lane. 
  • Ilyasova scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half, as he got off to a quick start that included a jab step 18-footer and a step-back three.  He put it on the floor a bit as well, though his game mostly involved hanging around the perimeter, offering his guards screen and roll options, and occasionally working off the ball.  That's more or less what we saw from him in Barcelona, though he might be a bit more active in looking for his shot now that he's the clear second option for Turkey after Hedo Turkoglu.

    Ilyasova's handle looked pretty good for a PF, though his drives to the hoop are used mostly as a counter-move when his defender rushes at him on the catch.  From this game and what I saw from him in Spain, he's not a guy who gets plays called for him, so don't expect him to size up defenders and take them off the dribble much, and I've only rarely seen him work out of the post.  When he does go at a defender, it's often just to set up his high-arcing, step back jumper.  
  • All in all that makes Ilyasova a classic complementary player.  Unlike some players who have to drastically change their styles to adapt to a new role, Ilyasova can pretty much just keep doing what he's been doing: shoot when he's open, rebound and get loose balls, and keep his man in front of him.  And unlike Charlie Villanueva, Ilyasova doesn't need the ball in his hands to contribute, which was probably the biggest reason the Bucks were so content to let CV walk and bring in Ilyasova for less than half the price.

    Athletically, Ilyasova doesn't blow you away, but combining strength and decent quickness with a lunchpail mentality means that he should be able to hang with modern PFs while occasionally seeing time at SF or even center in small lineups.  He's a classic below-the-rim rebounder (that's a compliment BTW) and I think Bill Peterson said it best last week when he noted Ilyasova was a very good rebounder in his area, less so out of his area.  He's not a Dwight Howard-like rebounding beast by any stretch of the imagination, but he always seems to come away with the ball when it's near him.

    "Versatility" can sometimes be a euphemism for not having a position, but I think Ersan should be OK in that sense.  I'd still guess that his ability to rebound, defend and stretch the floor makes him a better complement to Luc Mbah a Moute than Hakim Warrick, but we'll see next month whether Scott Skiles agrees.  It's very possible Skiles opts to start Delfino at small forward, which because of Delfino's range would in turn provide more flexibility to start Warrick at the other spot.