No, Casino Rama, imagining these two players switching jerseys is where my excitement begins.

No, Casino Rama, imagining these two players switching jerseys is where my “excitement begins”

Everything Bargnani-related you hear over the next couple of weeks should probably be taken with a large grain of salt given that we’re closing in on the NBA’s trade deadline (February 21) and that Andrea will be one of the more talked about players in the media, but there’s this from Hoops World’s Steve Kyler on Monday afternoon:

Raptors sources peg Milwaukee’s Ilyasova as a target; however, it’s unclear how that would work with Rudy Gay now in tow.”

Kyler writes about the Raptors’ interest in Ilyasova in a short writeup about how Toronto continues to look for ways to unload Andrea Bargnani’s contract, and also writes that Ilyasova could be a dark horse trade target for the Raptors and Nets should the two teams “swing and miss on other options.”

Bryan Colangelo has been rumoured to be fond of Ilyasova for a while – who could blame him? – and the Raptors were linked to the Turkish forward in free agency rumours in the summer, but I find it very hard to believe the Bucks would give up on Ersan to take on Bargnani’s bloated contract.

Sure, Ilyasova is actually on the books for another four years after this one for a total of just over $32 million while Bargnani is only on the books for another two years and roughly $22 million, but when you consider that Ilyasova will make $2.6 million less than Andrea in 2013-14 and $3.6 million less in 2014-15, you quickly realize that he’s in the early stages of a bargain contract in the NBA.

Despite his early season struggles in his first season post-extension, Ilyasova has recently bounced back to being the player many fans and stats nerds alike became enamored with over the last few years, averaging over 18 points and eight rebounds per game over his last 11 games. In addition, his per-36-minute averages remain impressive this season (15.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals) while the 6-9 forward continues to shoot the lights out from three-point range. After shooting the three-ball at a below average rate of 33.5 per cent over his first three NBA seasons, Ilyasova is shooting an insane 44.8 per cent from deep over the last two seasons, including 44.2 per cent this season.

Basically, when you look at the fact that Ilyasova is a floor-stretching forward who rebounds well and has the versatility to play the three and the four, you come to the realization that he’s everything Raptors fans wish Bargnani was, just at a much cheaper per-year cost (the advanced numbers also clearly favour the cheaper and younger Ilyasova).

The one concern with adding Ilyasova to an offence that already features Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan is that the team would still lack a true post presence, as nearly 57 per cent of Ersan’s 9.5 field goal attempts per game this season come from 16 feet out or more, but that also has to do with Milwaukee using him at small forward rather than power forward more than they have in the past. In addition, his legitimate long range threat compared to Bargnani’s perceived threat (Bargnani’s only shot above 35 per cent from deep three times in seven NBA seasons and hasn’t done so in three years) would really open up some slashing lanes for perimeter players like Gay, DeRozan and even Kyle Lowry, and the hope would be that Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas continue to evolve as effective post options.

Add it all up and a Bargnani for Ilyasova swap really does seem like the type of move that would be too good to be true for Raptors fans and ridiculous to accept for the Bucks. I don’t doubt Kyler’s report, because I imagine more than a couple of teams would be interested in Ilyasova’s services for the next handful of years, but I do doubt that Milwaukee would seriously entertain an offer built around Toronto’s “enigma of all enigmas.”

And yes, I’m quite aware that I’ve milked that Colangelo quote for all it’s worth.