The aggressive pursuit of Steve Nash is dominating basketball headlines North of the border right now, and rightfully so. Besides the whole Canadiana thing, Nash can still take a low level team like the Raptors and have them in playoff contention, even at the age of 38.
But while Nash gets all of the hype and most of the media attention, there are a few other names out there to keep an eye on. As ESPN reported on Sunday, a large backloaded contract offer, termed a “poison pill” contract, could still get Jeremy Lin out of New York City, and the Raptors are mentioned in that report.
Acquiring one of Nash or Lin would certainly be a major splash for the Raptors and would generate a ton of buzz around the team.
But one name that I feel isn’t getting enough attention is Ersan Ilyasova. The young Bucks forward has steadily progressed over the last six years (four of which have been spent in the NBA) since joining the Association as a 19-year-old for the 2006-2007 season.
While many seem him as more of a power forward or a “tweener,” I’ve always thought that the 6’9, 235-pound Ilyasova could thrive in extended minutes at the three-spot.
I’m in total support of throwing money at a 38-year-old Nash, who should still have a couple of solid seasons left in the tank. I can understand why Jeremy Lin makes sense from a business standpoint, and see how he could help on the court as well. But if you want to finally lock up the small forward position for the forseeable future, the Raptors should be going hard after Ilyasova.
The Turkish forward averaged 13 points and 8.8 rebounds for the Bucks this past season, shooting an impressive 49.2 per cent from the field and a staggering 45.5 per cent from behind the arc.
His career averages of about 10 points, six boards and 44.5 per cent shooting (35.7% from three) don’t exactly jump off the page, but his averages per 36 minutes and his Player Efficiency Rating of 20.5 in 2011-2012 have to be raising some eyebrows. For the record, Ilyasova has put up career averages of nearly 16 points, 10 rebounds and a steal per 36 minutes, while committing about four fouls and 1.6 turnovers. In addition, he’s a versatile defender who defends very well in the post.
Most intriguing of all is that he turned just 25-years-old in May.
There are some rumblings that the Raptors are one of four teams (along with Bucks, Spurs and Cavaliers) at least kicking the tires on the unrestricted free agent, and if you ask me, that should be as exciting a possibility as anyone not named Nash this summer.