One of the most striking omissions of this contracted season is the amount of coverage concerning Ersan Ilyasova‘s outstanding season. Why is this? Is this because he plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, a team notorious as an island of misfit toys that sits four games under .500? They just acquired Monta Ellis and even then there was barely a peep about Ilyasova. No, his game is not as flashy as the Jeremy Lin breakout, but it is steady and methodical which bodes well when it comes to a player’s duration in the NBA.
As best as I can remember the last time a player was having a great season but was getting little, if any, attention it was Troy Murphy. Through the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons with the Indiana Pacers, Murphy was a double-double machine. During the 08-09 season he averaged 15.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. The next season he averaged 16.1 points and 11.3 boards. Yet, his play went virtually unnoticed. I seem to recall Marc Stein pointing it out in one of his weekly power rankings (searching for it has produced nothing as yet) but that was about all the attention he garnered.
This season it appears to be Ilyasova’s turn outside of the spotlight which is a same because he is putting together a remarkable season especially in lieu of the injury to Andrew Bogut, before he was dealt to Golden State. Ilyasova is averaging 16.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per 36 minutes. Since being reinserted into the starting lineup on February 17, he has averaged 18.8 points per game and 10.4 rebounds. During this current stretch, Ilyasova has accounted for 17 percent of the team’s total scoring while shooting a staggering 52.8 percent. Twice he has topped the 30-point plateau, scoring 31 and 32 points, with 32 being his career high.
On February 19, he scored 29 points and pulled in 25 rebounds, 13 of which were offensive boards. This game was at least briefly covered on SportsCenter that night but it was an afterthought due to their coverage of Linsanity. (Lin had 28 points and 14 rebounds that day in a comeback win against the Mavericks in case you were wondering.)
Ilyasova leads all Bucks in total rebounding percentage on the season. He collects 17.9 percent of all available rebounds while he is on the floor. With Bogut gone, he also grabs the highest percentage of defensive boards, 23.2, and of all players on the team who see discernible minutes, he has the offensive rebounding percentage at 13.1. Ilyasova is the Bucks’ best player. (Ellis is too new and streaky to qualify.)
The numbers are right there for anyone to see but they are simply being overlooked. Ilyasova’s name should be in every conversation when it comes to the NBA’s Most Improved Player especially now that Lin has been somewhat grounded. Yes, there are other that need to be mentioned, Ryan Anderson for example, but leading a team without an All Star is a far more impressive feat. It will be interesting to see how Ellis is integrated into the system, especially having only played one game with Milwaukee so far against his former team in which Ilyasova sat out with a bronchial condition. Another concern is the addition of Ekpe Udoh, Ilyasova will likely lose some minutes with his arrival. However, that should not decrease his efficiency.
Take note and get on board with Ilyasova. He is having a phenomenal season and we should all enjoy it. The best part is that he is still young and could potentially grow into on of the better players in the league, if he isn’t already. Judging by his numbers, he is.