Ersan Ilyasova

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.

Sixers Will Pursue Top Free Agents

Luxury tax concerns won’t scare the Sixers away from chasing elite talent this summer, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

LeBron James tops the list of targets and is rumored to be considering Philadelphia as a possible destination. GM Brian Colangelo estimates the team will have about $25MM in cap room, but more could be opened to meet James’ demand for a maximum deal starting around $35MM a year.

“I think the bar is very high for us in terms of who we are going to put on this team,” said Sixers co-managing partner Josh Harris. “But on the other hand, for a certain small number of players, like we are going to go after them hard. People have asked me about the luxury tax. I don’t have any problem spending for good players.”

Pompey shares a few other notes about the Sixers’ offseason:

  • The franchise is planning to pursue Oklahoma City’s Paul George as well as James. George has expressed a desire to play in Los Angeles, but could be swayed by the young talent in place in Philadelphia. His defense and outside shooting would make him an attractive fit alongside Ben Simmons.
  • The Sixers will make a play for Spurs star Kawhi Leonard if he becomes available in trade. Leonard has a good relationship with coach Brett Brown, but Pompey cites the risk of trading for him without a guarantee that he will sign an extension. Leonard can opt out of a $20.1MM salary next summer.
  • Creating room for a max contract means renouncing the rights to free agents J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. The Sixers could try to bring them back with the mid-level exception and minimum contracts, but they may all get better offers elsewhere. Redick signed a one-year, $23MM deal to come to Philadelphia last summer and is probably seeking a longer arrangement at age 33. Pompey expects him to get an offer in the $12MM to $15MM range. Johnson, 31, will also be searching for a long-term contract.

Bucks Notes: Antetokounmpo, Henson, Rodgers, Ilyasova

The Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo are both envisioning a long-term relationship, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Antetokounmpo will be 26 when his current contract expires after the 2020/21 season, and he hopes to sign another long-term deal in Milwaukee.

“Definitely. That’s one of my goals,” Antetokounmpo said about spending his career with one franchise.Kobe [Bryant] did it. Tim Duncan did it. Dirk Nowitzki did it. I just want to be one of those guys … that stays for the city, play for the city for 20 years.”

That view is shared by the Bucks, who want to hold onto their MVP candidate for as long they can. Antetokounmpo is coming off his best NBA season, averaging 26.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game and leading the team to its third playoff appearance in the past four seasons. Bucks president Peter Feigin calls him a “unicorn” and says the franchise is doing all it can to maximize Antetokounmpo’s appeal.

“I think all of us feel like extremely lucky and have a big responsibility to do fantastic things for him, for the team, for the league,” Feigin said. “So we spend a lot of time and just being as innovative as we can and [discussing] how do we really take his likability and just blow it out of the sky.”

There’s more today from Milwaukee:

  • John Henson is sitting out his second straight playoff game with back issues, the Bucks announced this morning (Twitter link). Milwaukee’s starting center averaged 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in the first two games of the series with Boston.
  • Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has become a limited partner in the Bucks’ ownership group, relays Rob Demovsky of ESPN. A longtime NBA fan, Rodgers was introduced to the crowd in his new role during Friday’s Game 3. “I am excited and honored to deepen my connection to the region by joining Wes Edens, Marc Lasry, Jamie Dinan, Mike Fascitelli and the ownership group of the Milwaukee Bucks,” Rodgers said. “As a huge fan of the NBA and the sport of basketball, this is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to furthering my affinity for Wisconsin sports as a minority owner in a team I love and support.”
  • Sixers forward Ersan Ilyasova gave serious consideration to the Bucks after his buyout from Atlanta, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Ilyasova broke into the NBA with Milwaukee and his family still lives there, but he was more excited about the opportunity in Philadelphia.

Sixers Notes: Ilyasova, Belinelli, Brown, Hinkie

The Sixers, who raised NBA tanking to a new level during their “Trust the Process” years, got an assist this season from another tanking team, notes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. The additions of Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, who were both bought out by the Hawks, gave Philadelphia massive production off the bench in Saturday’s playoff opener.

Ilyasova posted 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Belinelli scored 25 points and was 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Although he drew interest from the Bucks, Cavaliers, Warriors and Raptors after his buyout, Ilyasova said it was an easy decision to come to Philadelphia.

“I think it’s all about fitting in the right situation,” he said. “Me and Marco, the way this team plays, we fit in perfectly in the system. … “When you look at the locker room and see the guys we have, obviously when [Joel Embiid] gets back, the sky’s the limit.”

There’s more today from Philadelphia:

  • When it comes to trusting the process, no one had to do it more than coach Brett Brown, who amassed a historically bad won-loss record in his first few years on the bench, Shelburne adds in the same story. The former Spurs assistant, who was 55-253 heading into this season, said he never lost faith in what the organization was trying to accomplish. “For whatever reason, I have found peace with what we have been doing since I’ve had the job,” Brown said. “We have tried to stay steady throughout it all. And I hope I still do. I really mean that. You had to have a vision and a calling. But we want more. Ultimately, we’re trying to grow something that can produce a championship.”
  • Co-managing partner Josh Harris also focused on winning a title in a chat with Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harris called it “painful” to rebuild for three and a half years, but added that the organization never wavered from its plan. “I’m greedy,” he said. “I want to win an NBA championship. “I’m not going to be satisfied until that happens.”
  • Former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, credited as the architect of the tanking strategy, remains on good terms with the organization, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. “Sam is a smart guy,” Harris said. “He’s a great strategist, and he certainly positioned the team, as best he could, to achieve success through the rebuild process. He also brought in some good people who are still with us. We continue to have a good relationship with him. We’re glad he was a part of it.”

Atlantic Notes: LeBron, Ilyasova, Raptors, Russell

LeBron James shot down a rumor that he spent part of the All-Star break in Philadelphia checking out possible schools for his children, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The report, which James called “disgusting,” started with Sixers TV analyst Alaa Abdelnaby, who said his brother told him a Philly-area superintendent relayed that James was looking at private schools in the region.

“Pennsylvania? Nah. What are you talking about?” James said. “Over the All-Star break, I was on vacation and then went to Los Angeles.”

There has been speculation that Philadelphia is one of the destinations James will consider in free agency this summer, with a company from the city buying billboards near Quicken Loans Arena urging him to join the Sixers.

There’s more today from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ersan Ilyasova held his first workout with the Sixers today since returning to Philadelphia following a buyout with the Hawks, and his ex-teammates were thrilled to see him again, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’m happy that we got him back,” Joel Embiid said. “I thought we should have kept him last year and re-signed him this summer. But I’m glad that he’s back and I’m excited.” Ilyasova played 53 games for the Sixers last season before being dealt to Atlanta.
  • The Raptors don’t expect to pick up anybody on the buyout market, tweets Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet. He adds that the team doesn’t see any players who would be good fits for the limited roles it has available. Toronto saved about $1MM by trading Bruno Caboclo‘s expiring contract to the Kings last month for Malachi Richardson and was hoping to use that money on a buyout, adds Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun (via Twitter). The Raptors may wind up with a slightly larger tax bill for next season due to Richardson’s $1.57MM salary for 2018/19.
  • Fully recovered from knee surgery, D’Angelo Russell is showing why the Nets traded for him over the summer, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. It took a while for Russell to return to form following the operation, but he is averaging 14.5 points and 5.3 assists over the past 11 games. “Oh man, it was only a matter of time,” said teammate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. “That’s D’Angelo’s game. He can score, he can pass, play-make. There isn’t much he can’t do. “It just feels good to have him back.”

Ersan Ilyasova Signs With Sixers

FEBRUARY 28: The Sixers have officially signed Ilyasova, the team announced in a press release. Assuming the contract is a rest-of-season, minimum salary deal, Ilyasova will count as approximately $357K towards the cap.

FEBRUARY 25: Ersan Ilyasova plans to sign with the Sixers once his buyout with the Hawks is complete, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

The 30-year-old stretch four played 53 games for Philadelphia last season before being traded to Atlanta at the deadline. He is having a typically productive season for the Hawks, averaging 10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting .359 from 3-point range.

Ilyasova is making $6MM is the final year of his contract, but with about three quarters of the season gone, the buyout cost should be minimal. He will have to work out the arrangement with Atlanta by Thursday to be eligible to join the Sixers for the postseason.

Philadelphia, which already added former Hawk Marco Belinelli after a buyout, has a full roster and will have to waive someone before signing Ilyasova.

Hawks, Ersan Ilyasova Finalize Buyout

5:50pm: Ilyasova plans to sign a veteran’s minimum contract with the Sixers for the rest of the season once he clears waivers, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets.

3:05pm: The Hawks have officially waived Ilyasova, per a team release. He’s on track to clear waivers on Wednesday, at which point he’d be free to sign with the Sixers.

2:42pm: The Hawks and veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova have finalized their buyout agreement, reports Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). The team is expected to formally announce Ilyasova’s release soon.

We first heard last Friday that the Hawks were nearing a buyout for Ilyasova. While it took a few days for the two sides to make the agreement official, it was always expected to happen. In fact, Ilyasova has already worked on lining up a new team for after he clears waivers — a Sunday report indicated that he intends to return to the Sixers.

Ilyasova, 30, has had a solid year with the Hawks, averaging 10.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 46 contests (25.5 MPG). The stretch four has a shooting line of .459/.359/.800. All of those numbers are in the general ballpark of his career averages.

After they waive Ilyasova, the Hawks will be left with just 13 players on their NBA roster, meaning they’ll once again have to get back up to 14 players, the league-mandated minimum. Atlanta left itself with 13 players after buying out Marco Belinelli earlier this month, and eventually signed Antonius Cleveland to a 10-day contract to get back to 14.

As for the Sixers, Belinelli ended up on their roster after being bought out by the Hawks, filling their final open roster spot. Philadelphia will have to cut a player to officially sign Ilyasova.

Sixers Notes: Fultz, Brown, Holmes, Ilyasova

It’s time for rookie guard Markelle Fultz to break his public silence and address the issues that have limited him to just four games this season, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The things Fultz needs to explain, according to Pompey, are whether a scapular muscle imbalance forced him to change his shot or whether it was done on the advice of his trainer, Keith Williams, and what teammate Joel Embiid meant when he said of Fultz, “I don’t feel like a lot of people … have had his back.”

Williams has denied making changes to Fultz’s shot and some people in the organization don’t believe it happened, but Fultz could easily clear up the situation if the team made him available to the media. However, he hasn’t granted any interviews apart from a brief one on TNT. A grievance was filed through the Pro Basketball Writers Association, but the NBA sided with the Sixers. The team may be trying to protect Fultz, Pompey adds, but the silence is just leading to more speculation.

There’s more today out of Philadelphia:

  • This is the first time since coach Brett Brown took over five years ago that the Sixers haven’t dealt away or waived someone at the trade deadline, Pompey notes in a separate story. Not only did they keep their core intact, they added a shooter by picking up Marco Belinelli from the buyout market. “It’s something that from the city’s perspective, from the fans’ perspective and from the these guys’ perspective to take continuity and move it forward instead of hack away at it and chop it down,” Brown said. “We respect it. We appreciate it.”
  • Richaun Holmes made a rare appearance Saturday, relays Sarah Todd of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The back-up center had sat out seven of the past nine games, but was scheduled for some minutes as Brown tries to prepare his whole roster for the postseason. Holmes responded with impressive defense in a win over the Magic. “Right now my motivation is I know that Richaun has value, I know that he has things that he can bring to the table and I respect how he’s handled himself when he wasn’t playing that much,” Brown said. “I know it’s my job to keep him alive and tonight was an example of that and I thought he did very very well.”
  • The Sixers could be an option for Ersan Ilyasova once he completes a rumored buyout with the Hawks, according to Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports. Ilyasova spent 53 games in Philadelphia last season before being traded to Atlanta.

Hawks, Ersan Ilyasova Nearing Buyout

The Hawks are nearing an agreement on a buyout with veteran power forward Ersan Ilyasova, reports Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link). Assuming the buyout is finalized by March 1, Ilyasova would retain his postseason eligibility for a new team.

Frequently mentioned as a probable trade candidate in the weeks leading up to this month’s deadline, Ilyasova ultimately stayed in Atlanta through February 8. He was immediately identified as a potential candidate for a buyout, particularly with teammate Marco Belinelli quickly reaching a buyout agreement of his own with the Hawks. However, early indications were that Ilyasova wasn’t desperate to get out of Atlanta.

Ilyasova, 30, has had a solid year with the Hawks, averaging 10.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 46 contests (25.5 MPG). The stretch four has a shooting line of .459/.359/.800. All of those numbers are in the general ballpark of his career averages.

While Amick (via Twitter) names the Bucks and Raptors as potential suitors for Ilyaosva, the big man’s skill set would appeal to a number of playoff-bound teams. He should draw plenty of interest if he reaches the open market, with Amick noting that other teams could get involved.

The Hawks are currently carrying 14 players on their NBA roster, so if they finalize a buyout with Ilyasova, they’d have to eventually sign another player to get back up to that league-mandated minimum.

Raptors Notes: Roster, Buyout Targets, Carter

With the NBA schedule set to resume following the All-Star break, the Raptors currently hold the No. 1 spot in the East and this year’s squad looks capable of setting a new franchise record for wins in a regular season. As head coach Dwane Casey tells Shaun Powell of NBA.com, the Raptors have built their roster without luring any big names to Toronto.

“It’s not like we’ve gone outside and got a superstar free agent,” Casey said. “We’ve done it organically by growing our young players and the rewarding part was people questioning what we were trying to do. We’re not there yet. We haven’t arrived. But we’ve done it the traditional way. A lot of guys around the league are partnering up, adding superstars, superstars and superstars. We’ve developed players, starting with DeMar [DeRozan].”

During the past couple postseasons, the Raptors’ lack of starpower has been an issue, with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cavaliers ending the club’s season in back-to-back years. While we wait to see if the Raps can get over the hump this spring, let’s round up a few more notes out of Toronto…

  • Within a piece on the Raptors storylines to watch down the stretch, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca discusses possible buyout targets for the club, noting that Toronto didn’t have interest in Joe Johnson or Brandan Wright, who landed with the Rockets.
  • The Raps are keeping an eye out for veteran wing insurance, since C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby have both battled minor injuries, according to Lewenberg, who noted earlier this week that Arron Afflalo may be a target for Toronto. Lewenberg adds that stretch fours like Channing Frye and Ersan Ilyasova may also be nice fits, but they probably won’t receive buyouts, and would be long shots to choose Toronto even if they do reach free agency.
  • After an early-February report indicated that the Raptors had interest in Vince Carter, Lewenberg recently suggested that idea is on hold for now. He goes into more detail in his latest article, writing that the club has decided “this is not the right time” for a Carter reunion. The organization doesn’t want the media coverage of such a signing to overshadow the accomplishments of this year’s squad, Lewenberg explains. The Raps haven’t ruled out the idea of an eventual reunion, but it’s “on the back burner for now,” tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
  • Earlier this week, we asked whether the Raptors will hold onto the No. 1 seed in the East.