Over the next week, we’ll introduce you to some players that the Nets will likely have their own introductions with soon.
Meet Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova is a 6’9″ Turkish power forward, currently with the Milwaukee Bucks, the team that drafted him in 2005. Ilyasova played 66 games in his first season in 2006-07, then signed a two-year contract with FC Barcelona of Spain. In 2009, he returned to Milwaukee on a three-year, $7 million contract, starting in 31, 34, and 41 games in three years, respectively. He also bears a striking facial resemblance to James Franco, but somehow has never won Sexiest Man of the Year.
2011-12 was a breakout year for Ilyasova, and it wasn’t just a minutes increase; Ilyasova averaged a career-high in points per 36 minutes (17.0), rebounding percentage (grabbing 17.6% of all available rebounds, higher than any individual season by Brook Lopez), points produced per 100 possessions (118), player efficiency rating (20.5), true shooting percentage (.577), three-point percentage (.455, well above his career averages), and various other basic and advanced metrics.
In many ways, Ilyasova and Kris Humphries — two men battling for Billy King’s affection — are polar opposites with similar goals. Ilyasova is not considered a player who seeks contact inside and muscles his way to the ball a la Humphries, and while that statement has some factual basis, he does attack the boards on both sides of the floor. He often eschews driving a body into his opponent, instead positioning himself near the glass and using his massive wingspan (measured at 7’1.25″ at the 2006 draft combine, in a universe in which he stood under 6’8″ in socks) to tip the ball in his direction or rip it out of an unsuspecting opponent’s hands.
Like Humphries in New Jersey, The Bucks used Ilyasova in multiple screen sets. Unlike Humphries, Ilyasova was an effective spot-up pick-and-pop shooter from the wings out to the three-point arc. Coach Scott Skiles often used Ilyasova as the screener off the ball, sending a guard off his shoulder to the weakside corner. When the ball swung around, strengthening the weak side, the defense often left Ilyasova open to protect the rim or potential slashes to the basket.
The Bucks also used Ilyasova to screen the ballhandler, both as a roll man and as a spot-up pick-and-pop shooter. The latter proved more effective; Ilyasova is not a creative scorer when attacking the basket and not powerful enough to score through most contact, but his height, length, and high shot release give him the time and space to create when he has the space to step out and his man shows defensively on the ballhandler. Having a quick-attack guard like Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis doesn’t hurt, either. Ilyasova only shot 55-144 (38.2%) in pick-and-roll sets, but when stretched out in spot-up shooting improved to 48.4%, making nearly half his three-point attempts in spot-up situations (often in the pick-and-pop).
Ilyasova is not a post-up or isolation player, and he often struggles when putting the ball on the floor and attempting to create his own shot. Less than 7% of his logged plays came in isolation or on the block, and for good reason; Ilyasova’s moves and control in the post make Derrick Favors look like Tim Duncan. His few points in these sets came on obvious mismatches (like getting posted on DeShawn Stevenson) or just plain dumb luck.
Like Humphries, Ilyasova won’t change a team defense. He can force bigger forwards out of position before catching the ball, but if they’re able to plant close to the basket, he offers little resistance to strong, intentional post moves. Solid post-up players struggled against Ilyasova when forced to shoot high fadeaways outside their comfort zone, but others dominated his less-than-stellar contests with close hook shots and layups. His average agility leaves him well short when rotating to defend spot-ups, and you can’t count on him to rove a la Tyson Chandler or Kevin Garnett.
Statistically, the 24-year-old Ilyasova resembles a 22-year-old Ryan Anderson. Anderson was more prolific from beyond the arc, but Ilyasova spent more time inside of it, scoring at nearly the same rate and rebounding more often. He doesn’t project to improve beyond his present impact: his 45.5% shooting from deep last year reeks of flukiness, and a post-career year descent seems plausible. His 2012-13 value will come from maintaining his production level, and extending it into a larger workload.