When the Milwaukee Bucks drafted Jabari Parker with the second overall pick, it’s safe to say it changed the entire dynamic of the roster from top to bottom. Parker was long seen as the player with the most potential to make an immediate impact in the NBA, with his combination of maturity and natural ability making him the centerpiece of this rebuilding Bucks franchise.
So the question then becomes not “if” Parker will start for the Bucks, but “when.”
Right now, Parker is being seen as a small forward, which is his natural position. But according to ESPN’s depth chart for the Bucks, that puts Parker in a backup role to starting small forward Khris Middleton.
Now, having Parker play backup for his first season is probably a fairly good idea as he is still learning about playing basketball at the pro level. But pretty soon, the fans and Bucks’ owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry are going to want to see Parker in a starting role. He is the player the franchise is constructing their whole team around, so his time warming the bench will inevitably be a short one.
The problem is that Middleton is a decent player who averaged 12.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game during the 2013-14 season after arriving in Milwaukee from the Detroit Pistons as part of the Brandon Jennings deal. Add in the fact he is only 22, that he has a ton of potential and he comes cheap, making less than $1 million for next season, and he is the perfect player for a team like the Bucks, who are in the beginning stages of rebuilding.
So the natural thought is to move Middleton to the power forward spot, or move Parker over to the 4 and leave Middleton at the 3, since Parker has proven he can play either forward position. Either way, the result is going to be a young, aggressive frontcourt that could play together for years to come and become the face of the rebuilt Milwaukee Bucks.
Which brings us to Ersan Ilyasova.
Right now, Ilyasova is listed as the Bucks starting power forward. He is 27, averaged 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last year and is in the third year of a five-year contract that will pay him more than $24 million during the final three years. Other than two years spent playing in Spain, he has played his entire career in Milwaukee after being drafted in the second round with the 36th overall pick.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Ilyasova is the odd man out here with the Bucks moving towards youth and a new coach and playing philosophy in Jason Kidd. It’s a safe bet that Ilyasova’s time in a Bucks uniform is probably coming to an end, and if Racine Journal Times columnist Gery Woelfel is to be believed, that end could be coming very soon:
Bucks are still shopping Ilyasova and, as an NBA official added “shopping him hard.”
— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) July 14, 2014
Some would say that Ilyasova’s fate was sealed long before the Bucks drafted Parker, going back to the moment Herb Kohl decided to sell the team. Joel Brigham from Basketball Insiders said as much during his NBA chat when asked about Ilyasova staying with the Bucks: “Ilyasova should have been traded like three years ago, but ownership loved him so much that they wouldn’t let him go. These days he’s not quite as valuable as he used to be, but he’s still a piece that can be sold off for something.”
Whenever a franchise decides it’s time to rebuild, there are always players that are left by the wayside, either not part of the new vision for the team or just don’t fit into what the plan is going forward. It would appear that, due to the arrival of Parker and all the changes happening within the Bucks organization, this is what’s going to happen to Ersan Ilyasova.