As part of the package they received in exchange for Serge Ibaka on Thursday night, the Thunder acquired stretch four Ersan Ilyasova, whose contract is mostly non-guaranteed for the 2016/17 season. Although Oklahoma City could save $8MM by cutting Ilyasova before July 1st, leaving just $400K on the cap, the team likes him and intends to guarantee his full $8.4MM salary, according to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman (Twitter link).
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General manager Sam Presti confirmed as much when he spoke to reporters after the draft, pointing out that Ilyasova led the league in charges taken last season, tweets Slater. In 74 contests last season for the Pistons and Magic, Ilyasova also chipped in 10.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 37.1% on three-point attempts.
While the Thunder will rely on all three players – Ilyasova, Victor Oladipo, and No. 11 pick Domantas Sabonis – to help fill the void left by Ibaka’s departure, Ilyasova is perhaps the player most ready-made to step in for the departing OKC big man, at least on offense. He lacks Ibaka’s athleticism and ability to protect the rim, but Ilyasova is a frontcourt player who can stretch the floor, giving Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook room to operate.
With Oklahoma City poised to keep Ilyasova, Thursday night’s trade actually added a few million dollars in salary to the team’s books for 2016/17. Ibaka will earn $12,250,000 next season, while Ilyasova, Oladipo, and Sabonis will combine to make $17,393,160, assuming the rookie signs for his full 120% scale amount. In the long term though, OKC may find it more affordable to keep its new players – especially Sabonis – than it would have been to re-sign Ibaka, who is headed for a big payday in 2017.