Ersan Ilyasova

Central Notes: Love, Hutchison, Ilyasova, Parker

Trade talks involving Cavaliers forward Kevin Love will heat up in the coming weeks, Marc Stein of the New York Times predicts in his latest newsletter. Love, who signed a four-year, $120MM extension over the summer, becomes trade eligible on January 24th. Love is still sidelined after undergoing toe surgery but could return to action sometime this month. Love is still regarded by some NBA executives as a difference-maker who could be available despite the Cavaliers’ insistence they don’t want to deal him, according to Stein. The Nuggets might be a team to watch, since they have coveted Love for years and may be in a win-now mode, Stein adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Bulls first-round pick Chandler Hutchison has embraced the role of defensive stopper, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes. Hutchison is averaging a modest 4.2 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 17.2 MPG but he has heeded coach Jim Boylen’s urging to become a defensive presence. “For me right away that was the first thing I noticed was I can help the team,’’ Hutchison told Cowley. “Then one thing leads to the next if you can help the team. Coaches are going to find a way to get you on the floor, which is a reward for me, but also if I can help the team in areas that we need help, it’s going to help us win.’’
  • Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer plans to keep power forward Ersan Ilyasova in the rotation when he returns from a fractured nose that required surgery, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Ilyasova, who suffered the injury during a December 16th practice, could return to action this weekend. Second-year man D.J. Wilson has played well in his absence. “Ersan’s somebody that we think we’ll find minutes for and then (with) those young guys, keep trying to figure out how we can keep them involved and growing and developing, but I guess for me it’s a couple days away,” Budenholzer said.
  • The Bulls have tried to package forward Jabari Parker with the expiring contracts of either swingman Justin Holiday or center Robin Lopez in preliminary trade talks, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports. Parker, who has been benched by Boylen, has a $20MM team option on his contract for next season. Holiday is making approximately $4.4MM, while Lopez is pulling in $14.35MM this season.

Bucks Notes: Lopez, Ilyasova, 2019 Cap Space

The transformation and development of the Bucks has been one of the hottest storylines of the season, as Mike Budenholzer has implemented a more modern offensive system and surrounded Giannis Antetokounmpo with enough floor spacers to make his rim attacks unstoppable. As a result, the Bucks own the league’s third-ranked offense which, when coupled with the sixth-ranked defense, makes for a potent combination.

One of the key additions this season has been Brook Lopez, who has transformed his offensive game to mainly be a spot-up shooter, a vast difference from the Lopez of a couple seasons ago. As Jonathan Tjarks writes for The Ringer, Lopez has been a huge part of the Bucks’ offense, as the team is significantly better with him on the floor. In fact, the Bucks “go from having what would be the highest offensive rating in NBA history with Lopez (115.6 in 832 minutes) to a bottom-five offense in the league without him (103.9 in 618 minutes).”

However, Tjarks also points out that due to Lopez’s limited athleticism, the Bucks have designed a defensive scheme that could easily be exposed come playoff time, as it has already been attacked throughout the regular season. It will be interesting to see what the trade-off is come the playoffs, as Lopez provides significant offensive value for the Bucks.

There’s more from the Bucks:

  • Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN had a feature on the Bucks’ ascension to the upper echelon in the league, detailing the additions of Budenholzer and Lopez and how they both relate to Antetokounmpo’s rise to becoming a potential MVP. Within his story, Arnovitz reports that the Bucks came “tantalizingly close” to acquiring both George Hill and Kyle Korver from Cleveland before the Cavs sent Korver to Utah instead.
  • Unfortunately for the Bucks, they will be without their other main offseason addition in Ersan Ilyasova, as the floor-spacing big man recently underwent surgery to repair a fractured nose, an injury he suffered during practice.
  • While the Bucks are certainly a feel-good story of the season, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports points out that the summer of 2019 could bring some changes to their core, with Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon all becoming free agents. As Feldman reveals, the Bucks will have around $67MM under the luxury tax to spend on bringing those four players back, but it certainly isn’t set in stone.

Latest On Jimmy Butler Trade To Philadelphia

The Timberwolves and Sixers agreed on Saturday to one of the biggest trades in recent years. Jimmy Butler is headed to Philadelphia, while Dario Saric and Robert Covington headline the package that Minnesota is receiving.

We have more news to pass along on this blockbuster:

  • Butler had shown an interest in Philadelphia long before Saturday. Butler scheduled a free agent meeting with the Sixers  in 2015, when they were still in the early stages of building a contender, before he re-signed with the Bulls, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated tweets.
  • If Butler agrees to a max contract with Philadelphia, Markelle Fultz‘s long-term prospects with the organization would be in serious doubt, Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets. There are plenty of other questions regarding how Fultz fits with core group that Philadelphia has assembled and the team’s brass will closely monitor how all the personalities mesh, Lowe adds. The top 2017 pick is averaging just 8.9 PPG and 3.6 APG  in 24.3 MPG and will now have to compete with another All-Star for touches.
  • Minnesota avoided sending Butler to a Western Conference contender, one of the goals it set in trade talks involving the disgruntled swingman, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes (Twitter link). The Rockets had been mentioned prominently as a possible destination but even a package of four future first-round picks couldn’t entice the Timberwolves to send him to a conference rival. The Sixers became the most viable trade partner once the Heat pulled Josh Richardson out of trade discussions, Wojnarowski adds.
  • The Sixers were prepared to offer a similar package to the Spurs to acquire Kawhi Leonard this summer, Fischer reports in another tweet. Philadelphia was willing to give up Saric, Covington and a first-rounder to San Antonio before the Spurs opted to deal Leonard to the Raptors. The Spurs’ decision to decline the Sixers’ offer thus far seems like a wise move, considering Saric’s early shooting slump (30% from long range), Jabari Young of The Athletic tweets. Toronto’s package, with DeMar DeRozan as the centerpiece, has helped San Antonio get off to a 6-4 start despite a rash of injuries.
  • Buyout candidates will be even more intrigued to join the Sixers for the stretch run, Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype tweets. Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli joined Philadelphia in that fashion last season, Kennedy adds, and the incentive for players seeking a ring to hop on Philadelphia’s bandwagon has dramatically increased.
  • The Timberwolves considered three offers from different teams before picking the Sixers’ package, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets.
  • Philadelphia will likely move J.J. Redick back into the starting lineup because his 3-point shooting will be needed on the first unit, Keith Smith of RealGM tweets.
  • The earliest that Butler could make his Sixers debut, once the trade is finalized, is Wednesday against the Magic, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

Sixers Notes: Morey, Offseason Changes, Fultz

When a July report indicated that the Sixers tried and failed to lure Daryl Morey away from Houston, it appeared that those discussions didn’t go far — Philadelphia reportedly received permission from the Rockets to talk to Morey, but the veteran executive decided to remain in his current job.

According to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, however, Morey didn’t turn down the Sixers’ advances out of hand. One source close to the process tells Arnovitz that discussions got “pretty far down the road” before Morey elected to stay in Houston.

As the 76ers’ search for a new head of basketball operations continued following their failed bid for Morey, a consensus begin to build that it was important to maintain continuity in the front office, per Arnovitz. That’s one reason why Elton Brand was the eventual choice for the general manager job.

“When you live with these guys over three months, from draft and free agency, you appreciate what we already had,” head coach Brett Brown said, per Arnovitz. “Elton was always going to be a general manager at some point, in some city. And it might as well be here, and it might as well be now.”

According to Arnovitz, multiple league insiders viewed the decision to promote Brand and give him the title of GM (rather than president of basketball operations) as a “statement of control” by Sixers ownership — if they get cold feet on Brand down the road, they could always bring in a veteran executive above him. For now though, he’s running the show in Philadelphia.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Arnovitz’s feature on the Sixers, which is worth checking out in full, also includes details on how Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are shaping the franchise’s culture and identity, and the lessons Embiid was taught by Tim Duncan during his rookie year in 2014/15.
  • Replacing Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli on the second unit will be one of Brown’s biggest challenges this season, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. In 23 games after that duo was acquired in February, the second unit averaged 41.6 PPG and improved its three-point percentage from 32.2% to 35.2%. Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler, acquired in trades this summer, are projected to replace them in the rotation but both are batting injuries, Murphy adds.
  • Late first-rounder Landry Shamet had a productive preseason and that opens up more options for the second unit, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes. Shamet, a 6’5” point guard, had a pair of double-digit games while mostly working alongside J.J. Redick. “I think it went about as well as it could have,” Shamet told Todd. “I didn’t surprise myself, that’s kind of the way I look at it.”
  • Markelle Fultz will start the season opener and Redick will come off the bench, Jon Johnson of KYW 1060 Philadelphia tweets. The 2017 top overall pick will be starting for the first time. Fultz only appeared in 14 regular season and three postseason games as a rookie. Redick, who averaged a career-best 17.1 PPG last season, hasn’t come off the bench in a regular season game since the 2013/14 season.

(Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.)

Central Rumors: Cavs Roster, Kennard, Lopez

The Cavaliers plan to leave an open spot on the roster heading into training camp, Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Cleveland currently has 12 players on guaranteed deals and has filled both of its two-way slots. The Cavs are holding spots for both restricted free agent Rodney Hood, whose negotiations with the organization have stalled, and free agent guard David Nwaba, who has agreed to a contract but is still working out all the details, according to Vardon. Training-camp invitees will battle for the final spot on the 15-man roster, Vardon adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers will allow the remainder of their trade exception from the Kyrie Irving deal to expire on Wednesday but they still have two more exceptions, Vardon notes in the same piece. It has exceptions of $2.5MM and $1.3MM from the deal that sent Richard Jefferson and Kay Felder to the Hawks last season. Those exceptions expire on October 15th.
  • Pistons swingman Luke Kennard could have an expanded role in his second season, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com. New coach Dwane Casey wants Kennard to handle the ball more often and become a playmaker, Khan continues. He could see action at three positions, though he will primarily back up Reggie Bullock at shooting guard, Khan adds.
  • Free agent acquisitions Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova fit the current NBA model of big men who can stretch the floor, Bucks GM Jon Horst declares in a video clip posted on the team’s Twitter feed“With Brook and Ersan, you have guys that have great size, that can shoot the three. They compete on both ends of the floor and have high basketball IQ,” Horst said.

Contract Details: Smart, Gay, Grant, Ilyasova

Marcus Smart‘s new deal with the Celtics will increase in value each season, beginning with an approximate salary of $11.7MM in 2018/19 and ending with a salary of nearly $14.4MM in 2021/22, per Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.

The total value of the contract is $51,999,900, $100 shy of the reported value of $52MM, and it is fully guaranteed with no options.

Here are a few more details on contracts signed this summer, courtesy of Pincus:

  • The Spurs agreement with Rudy Gay is worth $10,087,200, the highest allowable salary San Antonio was permitted to pay him via his non-Bird rights (Twitter link).
  • Ersan Ilyasova‘s new deal with the Bucks will pay him an even $7MM over three seasons, with a yet-to-be determined guarantee amount and date on year three.
  • The agreement between Jerami Grant and the Thunder is worth just shy of $27.4MM, with a player option valued at approximately $9.3MM for the 2020/21 season.

Bucks Sign Forward Ersan Ilyasova

JULY 16, 7:25pm: The signing is official, per team press release.

JUNE 30, 11:04pm: Veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova has reached agreement on a three-year, $21MM contract with the Bucks, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The third year is non-guaranteed, league sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link).

The move represents a homecoming for the 31-year-old, who began his career in Milwaukee in 2006. Apart from two seasons in Spain, Ilyasova remained with the Bucks until they traded him to Detroit in 2015.

He started the 2017/18 season in Atlanta before agreeing to a buyout in late February and signing with the Sixers to provide shooting help in the playoffs. He averaged 9.3 points and 7.6 rebounds in 10 postseason games for Philadelphia.

Milwaukee will probably use its mid-level exception to add Ilyasova, unless it can arrange a sign-and-trade with Philadelphia or swing some other deals to clear cap room. Assuming Ilyasova’s first-year salary exceeds the taxpayer’s mid-level exception ($5.337MM) and he’s acquired via the MLE or a sign-and-trade, the Bucks would be hard-capped for the 2018/19 league year.

That hard cap could be a factor if another team makes an aggressive offer for restricted free agent Jabari Parker, as cap expert Albert Nahmad notes (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucks Notes: Ilyasova, Parker, Lopez, Zeller

The Bucks are thrilled to have Ersan Ilyasova back on the squad after three seasons without the former second-round pick.

“Ersan is a high IQ player, he can shoot the ball so he gives Giannis and the rest of the team space,” GM Jon Horst said (via the Behind the Buck Pass’ Twitter feed). “He’s competitive, he’s tough, and he knows our system, he knows our community, he knows our players. He was a guy we focused on in free agency, and we’ll be excited to add him.”

Milwaukee agreed to terms on a three-year, $21MM deal as free agency began last weekend. Here’s more from Milwaukee:

  • Horst discussed the Jabari Parker‘s pending restricted free agency during an appearance on NBATV (h/t Adam McGee of Behind the Buck Pass). “We’ve had great conversations [with Parker and his agent], we’re in contact every day. I think the market will dictate some of it, but we’ll continue to work on it and we’ll see how it turns out,” Horst said.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com examines why Brook Lopez didn’t fetch a more lucrative deal than the one-year, $3.4MM contract he agreed to with the Bucks. While Lopez will provide Milwaukee with a proven scorer in the paint, his lack of foot speed will make it difficult for him to have a defensive impact. Pelton notes that the big man’s ability to shoot from behind the arc will help the team space the floor on offense.
  • The arrival of Lopez likely means Tyler Zeller‘s time in Milwaukee will come to an end, Pelton speculates in the same piece. Zeller’s $1.9MM salary is non-guaranteed and the Bucks will have to be careful in the margins if they plan on making an offer to Parker without going into the luxury tax. If the Bucks waive both Zeller and Brandon Jennings, whose $2.2MM salary does not become guaranteed until August 1, they’d have approximately $11.5MM of financial wiggle room below the luxury tax line.

Sixers Notes: Ennis, Ilyasova, Bird, Milton

The Sixers have their eyes on free agent forward James Ennis, tweets ESPN’s Ian Begley, but landing him won’t be easy. Detroit owns Early Bird rights on Ennis and has made re-signing him a priority.

Ennis, 28, came to the Pistons at the trade deadline after beginning the season in Memphis. He was a part-time starter in Detroit and averaged 7.5 points per game. He earned a little more than $3MM this season.

The Rockets and Nets have also expressed interest in Ennis, according to Begley. The Pelicans would also like to sign him, but the growing interest may push him outside their price range, adds Scott Kushner of The Advocate (Twitter link). Ennis played nine games in New Orleans at the end of the 2015/16 season.

There’s more from Philadelphia on the first day of free agency:

  • The Sixers talked to veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova about a return before he signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Bucks, according to Gery Woelful of The Racine Journal Times (Twitter link). The Lakers, Timberwolves and Raptors were other options for Ilyasova.
  • The Sixers are among the teams showing interest in Celtics shooting guard Jabari Bird, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who adds that the Wolves are also considering an offer. Bird was a two-way player for Boston this season, appearing in 13 NBA games and averaging 3.0 points in 8.0 minutes per night. He was a big scorer for the Celtics’ G League affiliate in Maine, posting a 19.3/5.8/2.7 line in 20 games. Boston submitted a qualifying offer this week, making Bird a restricted free agent.
  • Second-round pick Shake Milton will be held out of summer league play because of a stress fracture in his back, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The team plans to re-evaluate him in three weeks. His injury occurred during pre-draft workouts.
  • Justin Anderson had surgery on his left leg due to recurring tibial stress syndrome, the team announced on its website. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks, then again in six to eight weeks. Anderson has spent the past season and a half in Philadelphia and appeared in 38 games this year.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers have made it quite clear that they’re ready and willing to accelerate their timeline and make a serious bid for an elite free agent. That’s ambitious and admirable, but to assume that a player like LeBron James is around the corner is like buying lottery tickets to fund your retirement.

It’s commendable that the Sixers have their sights set on big fish, but let’s assume that the King decides to re-up in Cleveland and Philly is forced to see their original process through to the end. Sure, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid weren’t enough to win the East in their first ever playoff appearances, that doesn’t mean the organization is in any less of an enviable place than they were a month ago.

In the event that Philly strikes out in their pursuit of James, they’d be wise to continue what they set out to do in 2017/18, surround their obnoxiously promising young core with solid veterans capable of helping them flourish into superstars.

J.J. Redick, SG, 34 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $23MM deal in 2017
The idea to overpay Redick for a one-year contract last summer was brilliant. The team was able to complement its young core with a capable veteran scorer while getting a feel for what the next phase of the process was. It turns out the next phase involves winning, though, which involves paying to keep the club’s young core in tact. Since July, when Redick signed his monster contract, the Sixers have extended both Embiid and Robert Covington, eating up $35MM in salary that they didn’t need to worry about this time last. While the club still has piles of cap room for 2018/19, Philadelphia may look to lock Redick down at a discounted rate now that the roster is looking less and less like a science fair project and more like a contender.

Marco Belinelli, SG, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
Belinelli landed with the Hawks last offseason, a hired gun on a short-term deal, and eventually became one of the buyout market’s most desirable pieces. The Sixers prudently added the shooting guard in February and gave him a months-long opportunity to show what he’s capable of contributing to a contender. Belinelli is still young enough to command a contract in the $8MM-$10MM range and may be able to parlay his success in Philly into a longer-term contract. That could very well put him right back in a Sixers uniform.

Ersan Ilyasova, PF, 31 (Down) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
There are few players who fill an unheralded role more brilliantly than Ilyasova but that hasn’t helped him find any stability since getting traded away from Milwaukee in 2015. In the three years since, the veteran has plied his scrappy trade for five franchises, proving at every step along the way that he’s a solid rotation piece. Unfortunately for Ilyasova, the contenders that he could benefit most tend to be the ones with the least amount of cap space, so he may need to take a discount if he wants to win.

Amir Johnson, C, 31 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $11MM deal in 2017
The Sixers are in a drastically different place than they were when they inked Johnson, a reliable if unexciting veteran, to an eight-digit contract. For one, the win-now Eastern Conference contender need not get creative just to meet the league’s salary floor and they also don’t need to be quite as cautious when it comes to Embiid insurance. If Johnson wants to remain in Philadelphia – or on any serious playoff team – he may need to take a significant pay cut.

Richaun Holmes, C, 24 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $5MM deal in 2015
Thanks to Embiid’s reasonably healthy season, the Sixers didn’t utilize Holmes as much as they did the year prior but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still high on the athletic big man’s long-term role with the franchise. Picking up his $1.6MM team option is a no-brainer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.