The 76ers Must Re-sign Ersan Illyasova

The Philadelphia 76ers trade for veteran forward Ersan Illyasova has provided itself perhaps the most important move this season.

Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova has been dubbed “The Professional,” by many pundits and fans alike, and certainly was brought in for his veteran presence on a team soaked with youth. Illyasova has been mostly a journeyman throughout his ten year NBA career, twelve if you count his stints with the Turkish basketball league as well as ACB league in Spain.

Drafted 36th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2005 NBA draft, he played two seasons for the Bucks and their respected D-league affiliate the Tulsa 66ers. Spending the next two years abroad before returning to Milwaukee for the 2009 season, he would remain there until 2015.

Through Illyasova’s years with Milwaukee, he compiled moderate numbers, weaving in and out of the starting rotation frequently. Ersan’s best year was 2012 where he averaged 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists per game while averaging just less than 28 minutes per game.

Now, of course, these numbers are modest at best, but it isn’t the numbers we are concerned with. I believe Illyasova’s presence in the 76ers locker room, and arrival into the starting rotation has proven benefits to not only Joel Embiid in having a reliable stretch four sharing the court, but for Dario Saric as well.

Since Dario Saric has started coming off the bench, his numbers and overall game have drastically improved. In terms of Dario’s growth as both an NBA player and young man making a dramatic move to a foreign country, I believe having a veteran European presence in Illyasova makes Dario’s transition a bit easier to digest.

Solid Ground

Illyasova on the court has provided a steady and reliable stretch four option, which the team desperately needed. Considering the failed experiment of Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid sharing the floor, Brett Brown’s ultimate decision to stop playing Okafor and leave Illyasova in at the four spot has quietly been the catalyst in this seasons surprising turn around.

Ersan provides the team with a solid defensive game, and proven outside shot. Boasting a 38.1 percent shooting rate from outside the arc this season alone, standing as the most reliable shot the 76ers currently have.

Cap Friendly

Truthfully, I don’t believe keeping Ersan around for the next 2-3 seasons would be detrimental cap-wise either, considering the Sixers struggle to hit the cap floor as it is, and are not obligated to begin re-signing any of their current star players. Given the salary cap jump last season and next year’s cap expecting to hold at

$102-103 million, the 76ers are in a perfect spot to offer Illyasova a comfortable contract for no longer than three years. A player of Illyasova’s stature in this day and age would seemingly be worth 12-14 million per. Just like his career numbers, this contract would be modest.

The benefits of keeping a solid veteran around a growing young locker room prove invaluable. We have all seen the overwhelming success of Joel Embiid, along with the budding potential in Dario Saric.

The hopeful debut of Ben Simmons is on the horizon as well and will require just as much leadership as the next guy in his coming years. Essentially you’re signing Ersan for the rest of these “growing pain” years. We all suspect these pains to continue for a season or two longer, as the team learns how to win and compete with the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. Once the days of winning consistently finally arrive, it will be time to wave goodbye and transition a Dario Saric or perhaps a newly drafted player to take over. Consider Illyasova one of the last important pieces in the transition phase of the “process”.

Keep it Professional

It is safe to assume that Illyasova has hit his peak potential in this league. He will not often lead the team in stats or show up on ESPN’s top ten list. He will, however, provide a steady hand and consistent play that has not only been shown this season, but will continue on for the duration of his time with the team. That is what a professional does, and that is what Illyasova is: a professional.

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