The 2005 NBA draft contained some names considered to be among an intriguing pool of talent at the time: Sean May, the burly and crafty big man who had just won a national title with North Carolina; Julius Hodge, the silky smooth 6'7'' guard out of N.C. State capable of playing both back court positions; Salim Stoudamire, a sweet-shooting off-guard who thrived under the tutelage of legendary coach Lute Olson at Arizona. If you glance at the top 30 selections of that year, you'll find that Yaroslav Korolev, Ike Diogu, and Fran Vazquez were selected in the lottery. All the way at pick number 36 was 17-year-old Turkish forward, Ersan Ilyasova.
Nearly seven years later, Ilyasova is averaging 13.0 PPG and 8.8 RPG while shooting 49.4% from the field and 44.9% from three-point range. The other aforementioned players, all selected before Ersan, are currently not on NBA rosters. Coming off of what will be his most productive NBA season to date, the 6'10'' big man's contract expires this summer and he is looking for a payday. In February, we documented his mindset as it related to his impending free agency:
"It's hard to say where I'll be next season," said the 24-year-old. "It's going to be about the money difference (whether he remains in the NBA or goes overseas). It's always business. I don't want to think about it because I don't want it to affect my game. We'll see what happens."
Ilyasova has started just 36 of the 55 total games he's played this season, and one selling point for an interested team would be to offer a starting role. Milwaukee is also a forward-heavy team having just dealt for Ekpe Udoh, Mike Dunleavy finding a niche in Scott Skiles' rotation, and with Luc Mbah a Moute and Drew Gooden signed through 2014-15. The Bucks own Ilyasova's Bird Rights, so they would be able to retain him for any number up to a max contract. With that being said, unless Milwaukee chooses to break the bank and is willing to deal with a logjam at the forward spot, Ersan could be on his way out.
Last month, we made note that he could be a target for the Nets. I would even say that Dallas could show some interest, as Ilyasova would be a solid consolation addition should they fail in their pursuit of Deron Williams. Regardless of whoever lands him, Ilyasova would be a nice young player who at best is good enough to start. At worst, he has shown he can be a mainstay in a coach's rotation for many years to come.