Apr 23, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks small forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) is defended by Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (1) in the first half during game two in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Balking on the Buck

Apr 28, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) shoots during game four of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs against the Miami Heat at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Miami won 88-77. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

When rumors surfaced prior to the NBA Draft Lottery that the Washington Wizards were considering a trade that would send Trevor Ariza (and his expiring $7 million salary) along with our lottery selection (presumed to be 8th overall) to the Milwaukee Bucks for Ersan Ilyasova, I thought it would actually be a half-decent move and would fit a major need to bring in a power forward who could bring a defender more than 5 feet away from the basket. Besides, this draft was projected to be the worst in the last 10 years.

When the ping pong balls fell the way they did and the Wizards vaulted up to the #3 spot, the hypothetical trade slipped right out of my mind. We were fortunate to be getting a key player when not many were available. My preference was Otto Porter, a versatile small forward from Georgetown who could come into the league and be an impact two-way player, similar to Kahwi Leonard in San Antonio. I had already personalized a Wizards jersey with ‘PORTER’ on the back, just to see how it’d look in red, white, and blue threads. I created his likeness in NBA 2K13 to see how he’d fit next to John Wall and Bradley Beal. I even messaged him some links to apartments he should consider in the area (none of these things are true…I think. Besides, he doesn’t need my help – he’s lived here for two years! I will show him around if he asks though). Needless to say, I was on board and excited for the Otto Porter Era to start in the nation’s capital. What happens next in this presumably heart-warming tale is something you’d only hear from Washington’s professional basketball team.

Reports from the Racine Journal-Times cited discussions continuing to take place between Washington and Milwaukee to bring Ilyasova to DC, and this time (unfathomably I might add) the #3 pick was now the center piece of the deal. What??

Wait a second.


For the second time in four years, Washington moved up from their projected spot in the lottery and lucked into a potential franchise player in top-3 of a draft. Yet they continued discussions to trade for a player who just set his career high in points per game…with 13.2? I understand that is pretty rudimentary analysis, and we’ll dive into some more advanced statistics down below, but the fact remains that Ilyasova, albeit a nice player, was probably not going to be much more than a role player for a contending team. Seeing as the Wizards all of 29 games last season (two less than Miami did in their win streak), I’m not sure this roster qualifies as contending for anything other than ‘Which team has most players expected to provide depth who actually provide none’ race.

This is why the rest of the league laughs at Washington. John Wall makes a comment about how the team needs a pick-and-pop power forward and suddenly Ernie Grunfeld sprints as fast as he can to his computer to find out which player over 6’10” can shoot 3s. You know what John Wall also weighed in on last year? Bringing back Randy Wittman, and if we’re still debating whether that was a good move or not then I don’t know what to tell you. Grunfeld sits in the front office for a reason and Wall plays point guard for a reason (by the way, I’m still determining what the reason is for that first one). And if I need to add any fuel to the fire, we only have to trace back to 2009 to bring up memories of selling on a high draft pick for the sake of winning now. Randy Foye and Mike Miller both send their regards – they participated in this year’s playoffs; for teams not named the Wizards. Ricky Rubio says hey also.

Looking to Ilyasova, there’s no doubt he would add a dimension that this team is sorely in need of. He’s a good, yet streaky shooter who has knocked down 45% of his 3 pointers over the last two seasons. He only played 28 minutes a game last year but tallied 13 points and 7 rebounds, a PER of 18.3 and an impressive Offensive Rating of 114. He also carries a salary of a shade over $32 million for the next 4 years (which would soak up some of the 2014 cap space) and plays defense at a less than preferred level. Ilyasova only averaged a combined 1.4 blocks/steals last season and finished with a Defensive Rating of 104. He’s never been the type to dominate the glass either, and his light frame makes it difficult to guard certain big men around the league. He’s the type of player you would love to throw some money at in the offseason or trade expiring deals to obtain. He is not the type of player that you would give up the #3 pick in the draft for. At 25, Ilyasova is still relatively young and can be a productive piece in the NBA. Washington has a need for him but not at the price they are expected to pay. Consider, that the Wizards passed on James Harden (only one of the best 10 players in the league) so they could hold on to last year’s #3 pick. Not sure that point needs to be explained any further.

The issue in Washington has always been an organizational vision, or lack thereof. When Ted Leonsis bought the team, he vowed to stay the course and build through the draft, similar to the path lain out by his Washington Capitals. Of course, that didn’t stop Grunfeld from overturning the roster and acquiring high priced veterans to take the team to the next level (in case you’re still following, yes, this is still while the team was allegedly rebuilding).

Making a move like this would scream of the same confusion. The core is in place and another key piece can be added. The team as currently constructed is probably headed to next year’s playoffs. Ask yourself – is Ilyasova worth the price to move up one seed; Or can a talent like Porter or Anthony Bennett actually make this squad relevant again? These are the questions that face Wizards management.

The right move is to stay put. I won’t hold my breath though.

Tags: Ersan Ilyasova John Wall Milwaukee Bucks Nba NBA Draft 2013 NBA Rumors NBA Trade Rumors Otto Porter Washington Wizards

  • nich obert

    Add John Henson,and it’s a deal.
    He’s on a level with the best bigs in this draft, but not running away from them.
    While Ilyasova doesn’t own the boards, he’s the only player in NBA history with his 3pt% and rebounding percentage, 2 years running now.

    Streaky is what it is. If you’re 45% overall, you’re less streaky than basically every other 3pt shooter in the NBA.

  • nich obert

    Worth noting, his rebounding skill didnt dip this year, they just played great rebounders with him instead of a hodgepodge of Dalemberts and Goodens.

    Bucks fans think Ilyasova/Henson is giving up way too much. Therefore, it’s a good starting point,

  • nich obert

    Also worth noting, Ariza and Okafor are intelligible to be traded until July, so no draft day trades or pre draft trades can include them. Nene and a package of young terrible PFs as trade salary ballast are the only options when it comes to packaging salary with a pick for a bigger salary.

    I’d love to make a deal if we aren’t going to draft Oladipo. Not at all impressed with these guys in this draft.

    • Ben Mehic

      That’s an interesting point of view. I see where you’re coming from, but you might be undervaluing some of the guys in the draft.

      I can’t see them trading the pick for an unproven Henson and Ilyasova, just to accommodate needs.

      Thanks for commenting and reading!

      • nich obert

        Henson might not be proven, but he looked excellent.

        Henson would go top 5 in this draft. And Ilyasova has been an extremely valuable player the last 2 years. He was the 2nd most valuable guy on the Bucks last year (behind Sanders) and the best player (highest PER and win shares, 118 offensive rating, 103 defensive rating, a gap 6 points higher than anyone else)

        The Bucks wouldn’t even consider Henson for the 3. Add that to the criminally underrated ( in DC at least, apparently) Ilyasova and it would be a slam dunk of a trade considering we are looking at draft picks in hopes they can be our 3rd or 4th best player. I’d rather get 2 guys with that kind of hope, a rim protector and one of the best shooters in the league.

        There’s needs, and there’s needs. Having one of the most versatile and dangerous big man rotations in the league would be nice. Having Wałl play with 3 guys who shot over 50% on 3s for long stretches of last year and another guy who is an alley oop machine would basically be the perfect situation.

        It’s a conversation, but if we think Porters ceiling is Tayshaun Prince, I would trade it without blinking and take 2 “elite roleplayers” over the hope that the guy we draft turns into 1 within 3 years