Ersan Ilyasova was a key pickup for the Atlanta Hawks at the trade deadline but it remains to be seen whether or not his performance will make him a part of the team’s future going forward.
Ilyasova appeared in 82 games in 2017 which is not a small feat for a player that was part of three teams. His season began in Oklahoma City who traded him to Philadelphia on November 1. Ilyasova played well in Philadelphia scoring 14.8 per game while shooting a respectable 44 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range.
The Hawks acquired Ilyasova in exchange for Tiago Splitter and a second round pick at the trade deadline in hopes of solidifying the backup power forward position behind Paul Millsap.
The backup four had been a problem for the team for most of the season. Mike Scott battled injury from training camp on and was ineffective from the start. Mike Muscala provided a boost early but his effectiveness ultimately waned as the season progressed.
Ilyasova appeared in 26 games with the Hawks averaging 10.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in just over 24 minutes of playing time. His shooting percentage dipped to 41 percent but Atlanta had to be pleased with his acquisition.
Ilyasova is a skilled stretch four with a high basketball IQ which naturally makes him the type of player that the Hawks have sought after under Mike Budenholzer. While not a great individual defender, he understands the team concept and was adept with his positioning leading the league in charges taken.
Offensively, Ilyasova understands the concept of ball movement and he seemed to quickly find his place inside Atlanta’s system.
Ilyasova appeared in all six of Atlanta’s playoff games but saw his minutes reduced to 15.1 per game and his shooting percentage fall all the way to 35 percent. He was largely ineffective but the Hawks offense as a whole struggled beyond Millsap and Dennis Schroder.
Ilyasova will be a free agent this summer and his situation is an interesting one. He’s 30 years old and made $8.4 million this past season. He will be in line for a raise and his cap hold will balloon to $12.6 million if the Hawks want to retain his bird rights.
However, it is those bird rights that make him appealing. If Atlanta retains Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. without subtracting any of their other core pieces, they are going to be operating above the salary cap line thus limiting the ways in which they can improve the team. They may be hard pressed to acquire a player the caliber of Ilyasova who was a good fit and drew praise from the coaching staff upon his arrival. Since Atlanta has his bird rights, the Hawks can exceed the cap to re-sign Ilyasova which may be necessary given the team’s desire to stay competitive.