February 23, 2017
At some point in all of our lives, usually as children, we’re told not to judge a book by its cover. Yet somehow, we never seem to learn.
In the case of Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, he was sold right from the get-go as the polar opposite of his predecessor, Sam Hinkie. Basketball guy. A number of factors went into this particular portrayal, which we don’t need to rehash here. What is important to note is that due to the polarizing nature of Hinkie’s rebuilding strategy, the prospect of changing course was music to some people’s ears while just as many others were horrified at the idea.
Well, on NBA Trade Deadline Eve, Colangelo made the type of move that we saw plenty of in the first few years of The Process. You could even say that in shipping out Ersan Ilyasova for two second-round picks (well, one second-round pick and the right to swap another one), Colangelo “pulled a Hinkie.”
Man, this is awkward.
Hawks receive: Ersan Ilyasova
Sixers receive: Tiago Splitter, 2017 Miami Heat second-round pick, pick swap rights on another second-round pick
But really, no evaluation of this trade would be complete without tracing back to November and adding up another transaction to get…
Sixers trade: Jerami Grant
Sixers receive: Tiago Splitter, 2020 conditional first-round pick from Oklahoma City, 2017 Miami Heat second-round pick, pick swap rights on another second-round pick
Because this all can be very confusing, let’s talk about the picks that the Sixers received:
• The clock on the pick from Oklahoma City starts two years after the Thunder convey a first-round pick to Utah. The earliest that can happen is if OKC makes the 2018 playoffs, which they’ll certainly have a decent chance to do. Anyway, the pick is Top-20 protected in 2020, 2021, and 2022. If the pick never conveys, it turns into two second-round picks in 2022 and 2023.
• Miami’s second-round pick is protected from 31-40 in 2017. Right now, the Heat are at 43. But if the Fighting Spoelstra’s slip back into that range, they will give the Sixers their second-rounder in 2018 with no protections.
• The pick swap is super confusing, but almost assuredly the Sixers will swap Golden State’s second-rounder (likely the 60th and last pick in the draft) for Atlanta’s (currently 50th).
Got it? If not, too bad. Either a first, second, and pick swap or three seconds and a pick swap for Jerami Grant. Minutiae!
With all due respect to the #WhoIsPaulMillsap movement, Atlanta’s starting power forward is a terrific player. He logs 34 minutes per game (sore subject, if I recall), and when he steps off the floor, the Hawks go from roughly to as good as the Wizards to the Magic. That’s a lot.
In acquiring Ilyasova, Atlanta GM Wes Wilcox and head coach Mike Budenholzer hope to shore up those 14 minutes that Millsap doesn’t play. We know Ilyasova’s game (bombing threes and then bombing some more threes, unspectacular but decent enough defense), and with the Hawks eyeing a playoff run on a budget, Ilyasova for picks in the second-round was the right price.
Ilyasova didn’t figure into the future plans here in Philly. In addition to the center logjam we talk about all of the time, the Sixers also had too many power forwards.
Dario Saric is probably due a bump up from 24.4 minutes per game, and whenever it is that he returns to the floor, Ben Simmons will likely guard power forwards despite functioning as a point guard offensively. For this season, trading Ilyasova also opens up the possibility of more minutes together for Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, a combo we have seen for all of eight minutes this year. And what an eight minutes they were!
Splitter, who hasn’t played at all this year due to leg injuries, is an expiring contract. We’ll see what the Sixers decided to do with him, but despite the Brett Brown/Spurs connection, don’t expect Splitter to be a Sixer for long. Ilyasova’s deal also runs out this season, and Derek Bodner reported that the Sixers front office was worried about what the soon-to-be 30-year-old was going to command in free agency.
When you can obtain even a little value for a player who you were going to part ways with anyway, you do it. Good on the Sixers there, but that doesn’t mean Ilyasova didn’t have a positive impact during his time here. In particular, Ilyasova’s shooting proved to be a nice fit with Embiid. Of the 66 two-man combinations that have played over 100 minutes for the Sixers, Ilyasova-Embiid had the highest net rating (plus-8.2 points per-100 possessions).
“I want to thank Ersan Ilyasova for his positive contributions to this organization both on and off the basketball court," Colangelo said in a statement. "Ersan is a true professional whose daily examples of hard work, focus and consistency have helped facilitate the ongoing growth of our program and culture.”
At Wednesday’s practice in Camden, Ilyasova was the last player on the floor working on his shooting. And that is the other reason why the Sixers decided to part ways with the veteran: Recently, specifically with Embiid out of the lineup, Saric has been better than Ilyasova. Check out some of their numbers in the nine games since February 1st per NBA.com:
Basically, I don’t think you can call this a tanking move considering Ilyasova’s recent slump.
I haven’t watched a ton of Oklahoma City this season, but despite improved efficiency in a very small offensive role, Jerami Grant’s on-court/off-court splits are terrible. The Sixers swapped him with Ilyasova to juice the offense, and even if he was super frustrating to watch when that shot wasn’t falling, it’s tough to argue that he wasn’t a decent fit next to Embiid. And this entire season has been about Embiid.
Those people who are married to the idea of VETERAN will be bummed about this trade, but the Sixers played this situation well. If the front office handed out decent money and multiple years to Ilyasova in the offseason, I would’ve been plenty critical. Colangelo did a good thing here, and in the process, showed us that there always can be more than meets the eye. GRADE: B+
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann