Atlanta Hawks: Analyzing The Ersan Ilyasova Trade

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The Atlanta Hawks acquired Ersan Ilyasova in a trade on Wednesday night, with Tiago Splitter, a second round pick, and an option for a second round pick swap going to the Philadelphia 76ers. How does it impact the Hawks, though?

Having not made any real secret in recent days of their intentions ahead of the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline, the Atlanta Hawks have finally made a move.

First reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Hawks will receive veteran power forward Ersan Ilyasova in a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers that will see Tiago Splitter as the only player moving in the opposite direction.

The Hawks will also send one second round pick to the Sixers, along with the rights to swap a 2017 second round pick. Prior to the trade, the Hawks owned three second round picks heading into this year’s draft, with a pick from Miami that is now bound for Philadelphia, a pick from Brooklyn and their own selection.

Atlanta’s own second rounder is owed to San Antonio as a top-55 protected pick this year, dating back to the Hawks’ original acquisition of Splitter. With the pick unlikely to convey this year based on the Hawks’ current place in the standings, that obligation will then be extinguished, per RealGM.

In other words, already significantly overstocked in terms of second rounders in the upcoming draft, the Hawks have decided to trade in one of those chips for a piece to help them in the short term, and will still hold two picks to use on draft night or bundle in trades before that time. According to Wojnarowski, the Hawks will end up with Golden State’s second rounder in the swap.

Sadly, the inclusion of Splitter is largely inconsequential as the Brazilian center hasn’t played since January of 2016 due to a host of niggling injuries. His inclusion, therefore, just fulfills salary cap requirements, and due to his status the cost of his contract will be covered by insurance.

So, in a deal where the Hawks effectively seem to have parted with a second rounder straight up for Ilyasova, how have they fared? Let’s take a closer look.

Atlanta Hawks forward Ersan Ilyasova

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The Return

Although Atlanta has no concerns with the contributions they get from the starting power forward position, their situation behind Paul Millsap has been muddled for quite some time.

Mike Scott‘s performance has dropped off significantly this season, making him almost a non-factor. Kris Humphries has his moments but can be very inconsistent, and is at best a more limited version of what the Hawks have picked up in Ilyasova.

By that token, adding the 29-year-old makes a lot of sense. Ilyasova averaged 14.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, while shooting 44 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from deep in 53 games with Philadelphia this season, showing that he’s still more than capable even deep into his NBA career.

Ilyasova will play considerably less in Atlanta, but should be capable of significant minutes if he’s called upon.

In his time on the floor, Ilyasova can provide solid floor spacing, posing a threat from midrange and behind the arc, as well as a strong rebounding ability for a man of his size. Perhaps most valuable of all could be the Turk’s savvy positional defense, though. Unlike many of Atlanta’s current backup forward options, Ilyasova will hold his own defensively and excel at drawing charges.

Ilyasova is third in the NBA in charges drawn per game at 0.45, and leads the league in total charges drawn at 25.

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The Price

All in all, the Hawks couldn’t have paid a much lower price while also picking up a genuine contributor who isn’t owed money beyond the end of this season.

Although many teams would be precious with second-rounders, which are still valuable as the league tries to adjust to its recent salary cap jump, the Hawks have been diligently adding assets in deals over the past few seasons and have the luxury to part with a pick of this kind while still having plenty more in reserve.

In terms of moving on from Splitter, the Hawks had been expected to do this in order to free up what had basically been a handicapped roster spot for the season up until this point. With Splitter hitting free agency in the summer, the Hawks had moved beyond a point where they had any motivation to hold on in hope of a return to health.

There will be a touch of sadness in Splitter’s departure, as prior to the start of the 2015-16 season many believed he could have been the perfect complementary big man alongside Paul Millsap and Al Horford. The thought was that Splitter’s addition to the frontcourt rotation could help shore up Atlanta’s long-running rebounding problem, but that plan never really got a chance to come to fruition.

In reality, Splitter’s injury problems played a major part in the way the team has been reshaped in the past 12 months. If Splitter had stayed healthy, Horford and Jeff Teague may still be Hawks, Dwight Howard could be playing elsewhere and maybe Atlanta would have been closer to the top of the Eastern Conference.

In the end, after being essentially gifted to the Hawks when the Spurs needed to clear space to sign LaMarcus Aldridge, Splitter was an experiment that failed miserably for Mike Budenholzer’s team.

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The Fit

Ilyasova’s style of play is consistent with much of what the Hawks and coach Budenholzer look for from the power forward position, and in many ways he should bridge the gap between Millsap and his replacements.

Make no mistake, Ilyasova would be the pauper’s version in any comparison of the two, but at least he possesses a shooting touch, a nose for rebounds and a high defensive IQ like Atlanta’s star forward.

When Millsap’s on the court, the Hawks post a net rating of +2.6. Although Ilyasova can’t be expected to match that, perhaps he’ll be able to plug the chasm to the team’s net rating of -6.5 when their All-Star sits.

In terms of Ilyasova’s past experiences, he’s always fared well in teams that move the ball well. The 76ers team that he’s just left are currently ranked ninth in the NBA in assists per game, while the Jason Kidd-coached Bucks team that Ilyasova played well on in 2014-15 were ranked seventh for that season. With the Hawks currently ranked sixth, Ilyasova should get quality looks and feel right at home in Atlanta.

Offensively and defensively, it’s fair to say he looks like a solid fit.

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The Outlook

With one trade in the books, the question now turns to what’s next for the Hawks. Before they get to look at how Ilyasova fits as a part of their system, it’s likely that there could be more moves to come.

Speaking with Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical in a video interview earlier on Wednesday, Hawks general manager made it clear that the organization’s deadline focus remains fully fixed on getting the most out of the current season.

“I think it’s fair to classify the Atlanta Hawks as buyers. We’re in a fortunate pick position, as we’ve got 11 picks over the next three drafts and it’s safe to say we’re not going to have 11 rookies on our team over that same period of time.

“So, we’re absolutely looking for the opportunity to improve our team, although at the same time we feel really good about our group. We don’t feel as if we have to do something, but if the right opportunity came about, we’ll be aggressive to try and help our team through the stretch run.”

Ilyasova was clearly a player who the Hawks felt could be termed as “the right opportunity,” and according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, there’s likely more to come.

That probably means the Hawks will continue to search for a veteran point guard who can add some extra depth alongside Malcolm Delaney and behind Dennis Schröder in the rotation.

With the addition of Ilyasova, expiring forwards like Scott and Humphries could now be prime candidates to be moved, along with picks, in Atlanta’s pursuit of point guard help.

It seems like Thursday’s NBA trade deadline could prove to be a busy day for the Atlanta Hawks.

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