Season Preview: Ersan Ilyasova
Career statsErsan Ilyasova is one of the new faces to the Pistons this season, after being acquired in a trade with the Bucks for Caron Butler and Shawne Williams. Which for what it's worth was a really good trade, much like the Marcus Morris trade, the Pistons basically gave up nothing for a useful player who is in their prime.
While Ersan may not be the long term solution at PF (he might be though) he does at the very least provide the team with a valuable piece. Giving the first opportunity to see what sort of damage Andre Drummond can do while playing along side a legit stretch 4. With apologies to Anthony Tolliver, and the other host of bench guys who played the 4 the last couple years. None of them are as good as Ersan. So even if Ersan does not stay with the team long term (he is on the books for this year and next) he will play an important role in the development of the team. He will allow for SVG to play the type of offense he wants to all the time, as opposed to doing a balancing act between Dre and Greg Monroe.
For now though, he is on the team. So what will he contribute in the coming season? Some stability. (hopefully)
There is almost no one on the Pistons team who you know exactly what you will get from them this year. Tons of young guys who have potential that they may or may not reach. Some older guys who are going to be taking on bigger roles for the first times. (here's looking at you Mook) Ersan is a Vet who has a proven track record of being a good shooter from the outside (outside of two outliers but more on those later) and a guy who will bring hustle to every other phase of the game, and not force shots and ergo be a willing passer who will keep the ball moving. Even if he does not put up great numbers, if he is drawing defenders out of the paint to let Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond shred opposing defenses to shreds, he is doing exactly what he is supposed too. He also figures to be the most experienced player in the regular rotation by the end of the season (assuming Jennings is on the team and is the back up point guard) which is mostly a testament to how young this team is more than anything.
Where he fits on Offense: Standing out at the three point line and creating space. Theoretically giving teams the classic no win situation. Keep a guy glued to Ersan and let RJ and Dre run a pick and roll 2 on 2 (which is a bad situation for the D) or sag off Ersan and allow him an open three. (also a bad situation) However Ersan gives an extra wrinkle. He has a pretty effective dribble drive game. Look at his shot chart from last yearand you will see he is a good shooter from the perimeter, but also that he is surprisingly effective at the hoop for someone billed as a spot up shooter. Don't be mistaken, he is not some great driver who will make hard finishes very much. That is a result of his pump and go game. If a defender closes out too hard Ersan will pump and head straight to the hoop for an easy look. His ability to put the ball on the floor makes him even harder to deal with as an off ball player. Essentially he is the perfect role player for the system that SVG wants to run this year. He will never create issues with forcing up shots or anything, he will stand outside and force defenses to choose between 2 bad options. His one real shortcoming on offense is that beyond his pump and go game. He is basically useless as a creator, whether it be for his own shot or for someone else. (1.1 assists per game over his career. ouch) This is a potential problem and the reason why he might not be the long term answer at the 4. Most teams will feel fairly comfortable putting a wing player on him and counting on him not being able to hurt them too badly. While he is tall enough that he can just shoot over shorter players if teams go super small. That is a trade off most teams will likely take. So unless he has developed a semi-competent post up game to punish smaller defenders, (unlikely, though not totally out of the question at this point in his career) he will at times be a problem for the team. Particularly in the playoffs where teams are much more aggressive in game planning to gain any advantage. However, if teams do put a wing player on him, that would leave just one true big on the floor, allowing for only one true big to compete with Andre for boards, and also leaves the team potentially vulnerable to switching. A wing (lets say Harrison Barnes for instance) might be able to cover Ilyasova just fine and not get beat up in the post. But if he ends up on Andre Drummond, that will end poorly for Barnes. So his lack of creation skills may not end up being as big an issue as it might seem, but that depends on how good Andre is in the post by the end of the year. Regardless, he will be a good fit and will be good for Dre to have a legit stretch 4 to play with, and will be a nice player in the offense.
Defense: I will just be honest and say that I do not know for sure how he will do here. I have found a lot of conflicting reports as to his defensive abilities. Although at least there are not a lot of reports out there that claim him to be a bad defender, which is good. (even if there are just as few saying he is a very good one) He has the size to bang with legit power forwards in the post, and he gives good effort in chasing around smaller guys. The best grasp that I can get is that he is the classic "not naturally gifted but tries hard and generally makes good rotations" type defender. (basically classic white guy defense) So he will probably have trouble with good 4s, (enter Paul George going God mode, though that was not all on Ersan by any stretch) but will generally do a respectable job. And I personally am a big believer in effort being contagious, so I would think he should come out as a net positive on the defensive end of the court. Once again though, that could vary some, it is hard to get a good grasp on a players D without just watching the games. (unless you are a fantastically good or bad defender there will not be any youtube clips of you playing D) So put a pin in this one for now and we will see how he does. (FWIW in preseason he has looked pretty much like typical white guy, good effort, but not going to shut dudes down.)
One odd thing though: So there is one thing with Ersan that is truly weird. Take a look at his stats by the year, and there is an oddly huge variance in his shooting. He has shot below 30% twice(!), although one of those years was the year where the Bucks were legitimately horrible so there is some explanation for that one. However it is not like they were exactly a juggernaut the year before, and he went from 44% down to 29%. There is no good reason for that other than, he just can forget how to shoot for a year. Those kinds of fluctuations only seem to happen as before and afters of playing with LeBron James. However, from some basic asking around/looking into it. One issue is that, he shoots like crap when he forces things at all (goes back to his inability to create) and that both years he shot like crap were years where for whatever reason, the team tried to give him a larger scoring role. With this knowledge in hand, I can say with some confidence he will not be asked to do that in Detroit, and as such, he should avoid a terrible slump. Once again however, that is a crazy variation. So keep your fingers crossed.
So in conclusion:
Cackle with knowing glee if: -Ersan is hitting all kinds of threes over shorter dudes and driving past bigger dudes as a hyper efficient off ball destroyer. -Teams are in turn terrified to leave him open and try to defend Dre PnRs straight up. -The young dudes all decide that they want to be like Ersan when they grow up and the Pistons become one of the best hustle teams in basketball
Sacrifice a goat if: -Ersan is shooting like crap. -Ersan tries to post someone up. -Teams are sticking small wings on him and its working out just fine, and those wings are too fast for Ersan on the other end of the court for him to guard.
Opportunities for me to look stupid: -Ersan thrives with his new team playing in the perfect role for him, shoots 40% or more from deep, and surprises people a couple times a game with nice drives and finishes. -Ersan is a little bit more agressive in just shooting over smaller guys and does ok at it. Making it not a total wash when teams stick wings on him. (even if he can't hurt them badly in the post)
What do you think? How will Ersan do? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! Learn some turkish! We all get smarter!