Ersan Ilyasova has long had the reputation of being a Net killer. It is an article of faith among Nets fans going back to New Jersey.
It started in fact on January 8, 2011 during Ilyasova’s third-NBA season. The 6’10” Ilyasova, then 23, had an uncharacteristically amazing showing at Prudential Center, unleashing all his skills for 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting and 13 rebounds. Prior to that game, Ilyasova had been averaging 8.4 points and 5.8 rebounds through 34 games, including 14 starts.
The next season, the last in New Jersey, is when the Net-killer thing took off.
On February 19, 2012, Ilyasova decimated the Nets, going for 29 points and 25 rebounds, 12 on offense. He hasn’t had a 25, or even a 20, rebound game since ... against anyone.
Later that season he toasted the Nets for 17 and 17.
Over the years, Ilyasova has had these kind of games against Brooklyn where he’d play well above his averages. Whether it’d be 21 points and 9 rebounds in 2012-13, 20 points and 13 rebounds in 2014-15, 19 points and 13 rebounds in 2015-16, or even 22 points, and 18 rebounds (in separate games) last season, he’d do it time and again.
But when you look deeper, there are plenty of pedestrian performances sandwiched in between. The entire 2013-14 season, Ilyasova had 21 points and 21 rebounds in a the three games he played vs. Brooklyn while shooting 7-of-26 from the field and 1-of-7 from three. Last season, he only scored more than 10 points in two of the four games he played against Brooklyn, and he had 4 points and no rebounds in one of them.
This season? 9 points and 6 rebounds while shooting 3-for-10 on October 22, and 9 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 3-of-11 a couple of days ago.
Yes, the rebounds in particular hurt Brooklyn, who were criticized for their effort, but the point is, Ilyasova’s dominance against the Nets hasn’t been that consistent. And of late, the 30-year-old (at least) Turk has been meh.
Who you really need to worry about is Dennis Schroder. Or, at least worry more.
The German-born baller has had plenty of success against Brooklyn, consistently more so than Ilyasova, specifically after he became a starter. But even as a reserve he had plenty of moments.
On December 5 of 2014, his second year in the NBA, getting his first taste of consistent rotation minutes, Schroder killed the Nets for 13 points, 5 assists, and 4 steals in about 18 minutes. In fact, he had another 13-point outing later that season, this time in 17 minutes, on 5-of-8 shooting in another double-digit win.
That season, the Hawks and Nets faced each other in what is the Nets’ most recent playoff appearance. Off the bench, Schroder was a thorn in the Nets side, reaching double-digit points on four occasions. He shot under 44% once.
Since becoming an everyday starter the following season, Schroder has suited up opposite Brooklyn ballers on nine occasions, averaging 19.3 points, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game while shooting better than 41% overall and 35% from beyond the arc.
Schroder also had 24 points and 6 assists against the Nets two days ago.
So here’s the bottom line...
Yes, Ilyasova has been stellar for his career, putting up 396 points in 32 games against Brooklyn (12.4 per) along with 7.4 rebounds per game, for his career. But the dominant performances do come among some average and even below average games for the NBA veteran. And in the last few years, his production against the Nets is more in line with his career averages against the 29 other NBA teams, around 10 and 5.
Schroder in the meantime, especially lately, has been hurting the Nets at the most valuable spot on the floor, an position that after injuries to Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell isn’t as big a strength as the Nets thought it would be coming into the season, which has grown increasingly thin after injuries to D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin. His 19.3 scoring average against Brooklyn is seven points higher than his career average, his 7.7 assist rate is three assists better, his 1.7 steal rate double his career average.
Any particular reason? Maybe Schroder trying to impress his German national team coach, Chris Fleming, now a Nets assistant. Or maybe, he’s been feasting on the poor point guards the Nets have put forward in the last several years.
No matter. Spencer Dinwiddie will have his hands full once again, as will Kenny Atkinson, who helped develop Schroder during the blossoming point guard’s first three seasons in Atlanta.
You can curse Ilyasova all you want, but don’t forget to watch Schroder.