Sixers fans were ecstatic on Sunday when Yahoo’s Shams Charania reported that veteran stretch four Ersan Illyasova would sign with the team after finalizing a buyout with Atlanta. This is the second player the Sixers have signed since the trade deadline on February 8th, as Marco Bellinelli, also bought out by the Hawks, joined the team right before the all star break.
This is not Illyasova’s first stint in Philly. Early on in the 2016-17 season, he was acquired from Oklahoma City, along with a first round pick, for Jerami Grant. He played well in Philly before being dealt to Atlanta at the deadline, averaging about 15 points and 6 rebounds on 36% 3-point shooting, per Basketball Reference. He was often the go-to option offensively last season with Joel Embiid’s minutes and games on a restriction. Additionally, Dario Saric said that he felt that he had lost his mentor when Ersan was traded.
So what will Illyasova bring to the Sixers as they make their playoff push? For one, he provides much needed shooting within the big man rotation. Joel Embiid is a capable shooter, and Saric has improved greatly from 3, shooting 38% from beyond the arc per Basketball Reference. However, past those two, the remaining big rotation of Amir Johnson, Trevor Booker and Richaun Holmes provide little to no spacing. All 3 can contribute in other areas, but with Ben Simmons and TJ McConnell acting as main facilitators, it is vital that the team supplies shooting around those two. Ersan should play perfectly as Saric’s backup, and he is versatile enough to fit in many of the lineups Brett Brown will run as the season comes to a close. Another positive is that Illyasova, given his experience under Brown last season, is already familiar with the offensive system that the team plays through, with a big emphasis on ball movement. There shouldn’t be much of an adjustment period for Illyasova once he starts playing.
The signing means that the team will need to cut an active player as the current roster is currently full. This does not include players on two-way contracts. It seems likely that Trevor Booker will be the choice, as he is on an expiring contract and simply doesn’t fit wit the rest of the roster. Booker is a solid big man and his effort on both sides is admirable, but the lack of spacing he provides has been a glaring issue for the team since acquiring him in December.
I am personally very excited for Illyasova to get back on the court with the Sixers. I loved the professionalism and shooting that he brought last season, and I’m excited for him to improve what has been a woeful bench this season. It is also a great sign that free agents are choosing to join the Sixers. Things are looking up!
Huge Philly sports fan, in Florida now but born and raised in the Philly area. Currently a freshman in college.