The sign of a great NBA trade is when everyone wins, and when the Milwaukee Bucks sent Ersan Ilyasova to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Caron Butler and Shawne Williams, that’s exactly what happened.
In fact, this trade lays the groundwork for the Central Division to become the best in the East, and perhaps the second-best in the NBA.
The benefit to Detroit is obvious. Ilyasova is the next big step in molding the Pistons into a Stan Van Gundy team. As Dwight Howard was alongside Ryan Anderson or Rashard Lewis, now Andre Drummond will be next to Ilyasova.
Van Gundy ball is 4-out with a dominant big man in the middle, and now he has a cast that can run that offense. Ilyasova is a three-point shooter who knocked down 38.9 percent of his attempts from deep last season.
And according to Chirs Towers of CBS Sports, playing with a stretch 4 works wonders for Drummond:
Playing with a stretch-4 is good for Andre Drummond pic.twitter.com/IRZOVQmuJJ
— Chris Towers (@CTowersCBS) June 11, 2015
Drummond is the big winner from the trade on Detroit. Getting the space to operate in the post is huge. Additionally, he led the NBA in offensive rebounding last year with 5.3 per game, and 231 of his 494 field goals were from putbacks or tip-ins, per NBA.com. Putting him alone under the basket is likely to make those numbers go up.
We wouldn’t have made the move we did if we didn’t feel ready to make it a long-term commitment. There’s no guarantees. He’s a (restricted free agent). We know we can keep him through next year no matter what he does, but we feel good about making a long-term commitment to him and hopefully he’ll feel real comfortable making a long-term commitment here and we’ll get it done. We’ve got a chance to put together a really solid young core and continue to develop them. You’ve got to have some patience, but I’m not all that patient, so hopefully it will come together sooner. But you do see a window there and it’s not a short window. It’s not a two- or three-year window.
If they do sign him, whether he’ll be starting or coming off the bench behind Jennings, who ruptured his left Achilles last season, remains to be seen.
Still, for Detroit, that’s another piece in place for next season and we’re seeing a team shaped into Van Gundy’s image more than the big-centric Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Drummond trio he took over last season. With Ilyasova on board, Monroe is likely a goner in free agency.
For the Bucks, they got virtually nothing in return, but that was the goal. With Butler and Williams owning non-guaranteed contracts, the Bucks can let them go. In all, they’ll have nearly $23 million in cap space to work with, per Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:
Bucks cap after trading Ersan Ilyasova to the Pistons for Caron Butler and Shawne Williams (both non-guaranteed) pic.twitter.com/9AF20WGfSY
— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) June 11, 2015
Two free agents Milwaukee intends to pursue in July according to ESPN sources: Big men Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 12, 2015
Apart from the cruel irony of Jason Kidd thrusting a knife deep into the heart of former boss, Billy King, it would give the Bucks a starting lineup of Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton (pending a new contract, which they doubtless do), Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Lopez. Even getting Chandler instead of Lopez would add another great defender to an already elite defensive team, although Chandler obviously wouldn’t bring the offense Lopez would.
Considering that this is a team which less than a year ago was the worst in basketball but vaulted themselves into the postseason and are now positioning themselves to have a contender-quality roster, it’s amazing how quickly they’ve developed.
The Central Division suddenly looks like the toughest in the East, and perhaps the second-best in the NBA with all five teams boasting legitimate postseason hopes. The Chicago Bulls will be courting a new offense under Fred Hoiberg, the Indiana Pacers will be welcoming back Paul George for a full season and the Cleveland Cavaliers will be in their second year with LeBron James back in town.
The biggest winner of this trade is all the fans of Central Division teams who are going to watch a ton of great basketball next season.