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Ersan Ilyasova: Steady As He Goes

The 10-year veteran has proved to be a vital piece of the bench in the early going in his return to Milwaukee.

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Bucks’ veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova has played an integral role off the bench this season in his return to Milwaukee. The 31-year old’s prior connection to head coach Mike Budenholzer during his 1.5 years in Atlanta has paid dividends for the Bucks thus far.

In the first year of a three-year, $21 million contract, Ilyasova is putting up 9.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 23 minutes per game. His stats certainly don’t jump off the screen, but Turkish Thunder does the little things exceptionally well... like taking charges. He ranks 5th in charges drawn in the NBA so far this season. In fact, his charges drawn per-36 is second in the NBA. His anticipation defensively to take draw is elite, and he sets himself in very little time.

It’s safe to say that Ersan’s “charge card” has unlimited balance.

After ranking dead-last in rebounding last season, the Milwaukee Bucks currently leading the NBA this season in rebounding with 55.6 per game. This is not a joke! Ilyasova has played a big part in cleaning the glass for the Bucks. At nearly 7 rebounds per game in only 23 minutes, Ersan does a fantastic job at boxing out and attacking the glass to secure valuable possessions for the Bucks. Furthermore, per-36 minutes Ersan racks up 10.8 rebounds, 2.5 of those account for offensive rebounds. He’s also perfected the tap-out offensive rebound as well.

His best attribute though, is his marksmanship from three. Although he’s “only” shooting 36.4% from deep on 5 attempts per game, his ability to stretch the floor has really helped open things up offensively for the Milwaukee Bucks. Essentially, even when he’s on the floor and not scoring, Ersan is still contributing. Opposing defenses respect his ability to shoot the three-ball, which has given Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, and even Malcolm Brogdon more opportunities to drive to the hoop and break down the defense.

Furthermore, Ilyasova is shooting a career-best 52.1% from the floor. Head coach Mike Budenholzer must be pleased with his shot selection this season, and Ersan typically finds himself at the right place in the right time. I mean, look at how beautiful his shot chart this season is.

In years past, we were accustomed to the patented mid-range elbow jumper from Ersan. However, with the Bucks’ emphasis on three’s and layups, under the tutelage of Budenholzer, he has tweaked his offensive approach just a bit. Look at all those three’s and layups attempted compared to just one shot from mid-range.

The 10-year veteran answered the call on Monday night in a 124-109 throttling of the visiting Toronto Raptors. With super-star Giannis Antetokounmpo out with a head injury, Mike Budenholzer called on Ersan Ilyasova to start in Antetokounmpo’s place. Ers responded with a 19 point, 10 rebound double-double while shooting 8-12 form the field and 3-6 from three. This was by means a no easy matchup, as Toronto has a bevy of serviceable big men. Ersan did his damage in only 23 minutes of play.

Did the Milwaukee Bucks slightly overpay just a bit for Ersan Ilyasova in free agency? Yes. However, the financial risk has paid dividends for the Milwaukee Bucks this season, and Ersan has certainly provided the team with incremental value. In the past, he’s been very outspoken about the love he has for the city of Milwaukee. Even when the Bucks shipped him to the Pistons in 2015, I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be the last time we saw him in a Bucks uniform.

Ersan, it’s great to have you back!