Woelfel: Ersan Ilyasova wants trade
Is Ersan Ilyasova the most disappointing player on the most disappointing team in the league? He's definitely got some competition from Larry Sanders, but it's tough to argue any Buck has done less to earn regular minutes than the 26-year-old Turk, who has continued to start and play his usual minutes (27 mpg, same as the last two seasons) despite a brutal season that has seen him post career-worst marks across all shooting and per-minute scoring categories.
Not good times for Ersan, so it's not surprising that Gery Woelfel reports he's looking for an escape route:
According to multiple sources, Ilyasova has expressed a desire to be traded, apparently having had his fill of the Bucks’ continual rebuilding project.
Ilyasova downplayed talk about him wanting out of Milwaukee and declined to comment on whether he or his agent, Andy Miller, had requested a trade.
Ilyasova made it clear, though, the Bucks’ revolving door policy with players has irritated him.
Woelfel's story has a number of quotes from Ilyasova expressing frustration with the Bucks' constant roster reinvention over the past five years, and there's certainly some merit to that--especially with regard to the 09/10 squad that actually won some games. But going all-out to keep last year's team together never made sense, even if it made life harder for a complementary piece like Ersan.
I also wouldn't be thrown off by his "downplaying" of his trade desires on the record. Woelfel has been close to both Ilyasova and Caron Butler for a long time, so you would think anything he's reporting about them is coming straight from the source. But no one likes a public trade request, so this is where we are.
The obvious problem for all parties is that Ilyasova's value has tanked along with his performance. It's not to say there aren't at least a couple GMs out there who might still expect Ilyasova to bounce back to something closer to his old form--maybe there are?--but you can't expect the Bucks to get the same value for Ersan now that they could have over the summer. So they're in a pickle: hang on to a disgruntled Ersan in the hope that he gets better, or cut bait to the highest available bidder and move on? At this point we can only speculate what may or may not happen ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, but the obvious conclusion is that the Bucks would have been much better off dealing Ersan before the season.
Ilyasova probably isn't alone in wanting out of Milwaukee of course. Virtually all of the Bucks' vets have disappointed and/or lost minutes to young players, which in combination with the Bucks' horrendous record makes it only logical that guys like Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour, and O.J. Mayo would be happy with a fresh start elsewhere. Speaking of which...
Woj: Bucks still trying to move Neal
Milwaukee remains agreeable to helping Gary Neal move onto a competitive team, league sources tell Yahoo. Bucks talking on several fronts.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 15, 2014
No surprise here.
Neal's departure has seemed inevitable ever since his playing time evaporated in December, though injuries to Mayo and Ridnour have helped him find a way back into the rotation over the past few weeks. He scored a combined 35 points over the past two games ahead of the all-star break, so hopefully that offers the league a reminder of what he can do as a bench scorer.
Given Neal's minimal value around the league, the best scenario for the Bucks might be shipping him to a team that can simply absorb his contract with a trade exception. Via Sham Sports, Oklahoma City, Golden State, and Toronto all have the ability to absorb Neal's $3.25 million salary, which would spare the Bucks from paying Neal the same amount next year.
Berger: Wizards and Kings showing interest in Luke Ridnour?
CBS Sports' Ken Berger has some more good news on the "dump all the veterans" front:
Several teams have called Milwaukee about point guard Luke Ridnour, including Washington and Sacramento, a league source said. The Bucks are also fielding calls about their young players, as teams are dubious that owner Herb Kohl is serious about going through the pain of a youth movement. (It's been painful enough as it is.) But the message from the Bucks has been consistent: Barring a significant offer, their young assets are staying put.
I wouldn't have quite the same urgency to deal Ridnour as Neal, simply because Luke is expiring and he's already lost the backup PG/guy-who-starts-next-to-Brandon Knight job to Nate Wolters. Well, at least for now.
Washburn: Bucks want Mayo in shape
Mayo's continued absence after a nasty bout with the flu has been rather curious, though Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reports what many have assumed: the Bucks want him in shape.
It is speculated that the Bucks want Mayo to lose 10 to 15 pounds before he hits the court again, and he has also been felled with flu-like symptoms recently. Of course, the worse the Bucks fare and the more quality players they hold out, the better their chances for the No. 1 overall pick to add to their young core.
If I had to guess, I'd probably say that Mayo is less likely to be dealt than Neal, Ridnour or Ilyasova, which underscores the importance of figuring out how to get the most out of him. We know Mayo can be a much better player than we've seen so far, and it's not like the Bucks don't have a need for guys who can shoot and put up points. It's not to say the Bucks shouldn't regret the $24 million deal they gave him in the summer, but it's also not too late for Mayo to salvage something out of his time in a Bucks uniform.
ESPN.com | Goodman: Bucks prefer Embiid?
Finally, something less depressing to think about: the 2014 NBA draft! Jeff Goodman's latest ranking of the freshman phenoms reiterates the growing consensus that Joel Embiid is the front-runner to be taken first overall in June, with Goodman implying that John Hammond is among Embiid's many admirers.
Bucks GM John Hammond will choose the player he thinks has the best chance of being a star. Right now it's a three-man race, but sources indicate Hammond loves the skill, size and rapid progression of Embiid. The Cameroon native is new to the game and has tremendous upside. Embiid can help the Bucks on both ends of the court, and while he recently told ESPN.com he might return to school, most feel that he'll be in June's draft.
Embiid sat out Kansas' 95-65 win over TCU on Saturday with back and knee concerns, though neither injury appears to be serious (for now). Fellow top-three prospect Andrew Wiggins helped fill the void with 17 points, 4 boards and 4 assists, while Jabari Parker delivered 23 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and a huge go-ahead dunk late in Duke's 69-67 win over Maryland. You can check out Jabari's highlights below.