Stan Van Gundy and the Detroit Pistons made the first real splash of the NBA off-season by swinging a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks for veteran power forward Ersan Ilyasova.
It’s unusual to see a deal happen before the NBA Finals conclude, but that’s the case here. So what are the ramifications of this deal for each team moving forward? We’ll break down the fallout starting with Jason Kidd’s crew.
By adding the non-guaranteed contracts of Caron Butler and Shawne Williams, Milwaukee is essentially shedding salary and looking to increase its available cap space. Butler and Williams can (and probably will) be waived to increase flexibility, while Ilyasova is set to be owed $16.3 million over the next two seasons.
The Turkish big man had seen his name swirling in rumors over the past few years, and now he’ll finally get a change of scenery.
For the Bucks, this is unquestionably less about the deal itself than the options they now have moving forward. Primarily, the future of swingman Khris Middleton hangs in the balance.
The versatile 23-year-old had a breakout year for the Bucks in 2014-15. He shot the ball at an above-average clip from just about everywhere on the floor and was particularly efficient from beyond the three-point arc where he shot a scorching 40.7%. That mark tied him for No. 14 in the NBA among qualified players.
As good as Middleton was on the offensive end for Milwaukee, draining threes and rarely forcing ill-advised attempts, he still hung his hat on the less glamorous end of the court.
Throughout the season, Bucks opponents scored 98.6 points per 100 possessions on an effective field goal percentage of 47.2% when Middleton was on the court. When he went to the bench, those numbers ballooned to 107.4 and 50.9%, respectively.
His impact on defense was huge for a unit that embraced a newfound identity on that end under coach Kidd. Since Middleton is set to be a restricted free agent this summer, it made sense for Milwaukee to free up cap flexibility to ensure they can bring him back. He’s already become one of the league’s most underrated two-way talents, and he still has plenty of time to grow and improve as a young player.
Dumping Ilyasova brings on questions about Milwaukee’s offensive chops, but the long-term gain of keeping Middleton and perhaps adding other free agents to the fold will ensure steady growth for the Bucks franchise.
As for the Pistons and head coach/president of basketball operations Van Gundy, they’re adding a pretty darn good stretch four to pair with young center Andre Drummond.
Aside from a down year two seasons ago when Ilyasova shot just 28.2% from deep, he’s consistently been one of the league’s most consistent sharpshooters. That’s unusual for a player his size, but it’s quickly becoming a desired asset in a league increasingly more dependent upon ball movement and shot makers. Let’s just say there’s a reason why Channing Frye got a four-year, $32 million deal with the Magic last off-season.
Ilyasova’s shooting prowess doesn’t start and end at the three-point arc, though. He shot at or above league average from every mid-range location for the Bucks last season as well.
In Detroit, Ilyasova should be able to fit seamlessly into Van Gundy’s system. Think of Ryan Anderson when he suited up alongside Dwight Howard in Orlando. He’ll be able to stretch the floor around an up-and-coming center who needs room to operate on the interior.
It’s not surprising to see Van Gundy go out and add shooters to the roster. He did so last off-season as well with signings of Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin. But the underlying theme with this move hints strongly that unrestricted free agent big man Greg Monroe has played his last game with the Pistons.
The big man out of Georgetown is a solid player in his own right, but he hasn’t proven a fit beside Drummond. He’s too slow of foot to defend opponents when they resort to pick-and-roll offense, and he can’t score efficiently from outside the paint. As evidenced by his shot chart:
When Monroe ventured out of the paint, it wasn’t pretty for his scoring efficiency. He shot just 27% from mid-range around the elbows and honestly wasn’t even great inside the restricted area.
Freeing up that space inside should help Drummond bounce back from a disappointing season in which he converted just 51.4% of his field goals (a dramatic decrease from the 62.3% mark he posted the year prior).
Truly, this appears to be a win-win for both sides. The Bucks free up cap space they can use to pursue added pieces, while the Pistons bring in a replacement for Monroe who’s a much better team fit with the personnel on board.
Where Monroe winds up is anyone’s guess, but it’s logical to assume it won’t be with Detroit.
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