The thing about Ersan Ilyasova is that he's just respected enough to get a huge payday despite being unknown to a good portion of NBA fans. Ilyasova, who debuted with the Milwaukee Bucks as a 19-year-old in 2006 but spent time in Europe and, as such, only has four years in the NBA, is an unrestricted free agent and finished in second behind Ryan Anderson (profiled on Monday) in Most Improved Player voting. Unlike Anderson, who was always pretty great and just received more minutes in 2011-12, Ilyasova legitimately improved: he became a more efficient and prolific scorer and a better rebounder last season.
Ilyasova is 25 and just came off of a three-year, $7 million deal. He'll be looking for a payday. There's been talk he could find that payday in Spain or Turkey, but color me unafraid that the European market will be legitimately competing with the NBA for top talent this summer. Chances are he'll be the top earner among power forwards, beating out Anderson (handicapped by restricted status), Carl Landry and Kevin Garnett (headed for a one- or two-year deal, most likely).
In a world in which the Maloofs could afford to buy Ersan Ilyasova a nice dinner, let alone pay him a free agent contract, would he be a good fit? Turkin' hell, you'd better believe it.
Though he doesn't shoot the three, to me, Ilyasova's a slightly better fit than Anderson. Ilyasova has better defensive tools (a must on this team), finishing No. 11 in defending the roll man in pick-and-roll situations and No. 45 in post defense, according to mySynergySports.com. Offensively, he was one of the more efficient players in the game with a strong shooting efficiency (.577 True Shooting), offensive rebound rate (12.7 percent) and turnover rate (10.1 percent). Anderson, whose efficiency was K-Martinian, was even better in all three categories; for comparison's sake, the respectable Jason Thompson was at .558, 10.5 and 11.5 in those measures.
Why is Ilyasova a better fit, in my eyes? Because the Kings have their high-usage players: DeMarcus Cousins and either Marcus Thornton or Tyreke Evans (or both). It'd be good for the Kings' offense if some of those relatively inefficient players' shots went to Anderson in prospective, mythical situation in which the Kings signed him. But ... what's the real likelihood of that happening? Nuh uh. So to me it makes more sense to add a comparable player who can affect the game when he's not shooting the ball. Ilyasova's the better defensive rebounder and defender. That matters to me.
Of course, as noted, he'll almost assuredly be more expensive, too. Five years and $55 million seems like the sort of price tag Ilyasova could draw in a weird market like this. If it's the Kings putting out that sort of coin ... well, grab your parka, because it's going to be a cold day in Hell.
Stay tuned for Aykis' free agent stats breakdowns. I imagine Ilyasova will do well!