Ersan Ilyasova returns to Philadelphia

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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Almost exactly 12 months after trading him to Atlanta, the Philadelphia 76ers officially announced Wednesday the signing of the recently bought out Ersan Ilyasova. Originally acquired in a trade from Oklahoma City at the end October 2016, Ilyasova played 53 games with the Sixers last season, averaging 14.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, shooting 44.0% from the field and 35.9% from three. A career 36.6% shooter from behind the arc, Ilyasova again made 35.9% of his triples across 46 games with the Hawks this season. For this stint in Philadelphia, Ilyasova will wear No. 23, gradually easing fans into the idea of a Sixers forward wearing the number before the summer of LeBron.

To create a roster spot for Ilyasova, the Sixers released Trevor Booker, who they had just acquired from Brooklyn in December for Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, and a second-round pick. Booker was a positive locker room presence and a high energy guy on both ends of the floor, but ultimately spacing was compromised with him at the power forward position. With the Sixers being in the unusual position where neither of their point guards is much of a threat from behind the arc (Ben Simmons has yet to make an NBA three and T.J. McConnell, while shooting 50.0%, attempts less than 1 game), the team needs as much spacing from other positions as possible.

There was reportedly a ton of interest in signing Booker upon release, and in less time than it takes for McConnell to get off a three-point shot, Trevor had latched on with another Eastern Conference playoff team.

We won’t have to wait too long to see Booker again, as the Pacers come into town for a game on March 13th. I wish him all the best and hope he one day achieves his goal of becoming a billionaire.

As a true stretch four, Ilyasova should do a better job providing that spacing in the frontcourt. It’s been oft-mentioned how well he and Joel Embiid played together last season, accounting for an 8.2 net rating in their 441 minutes together last season. Unlike Booker, who operated exclusively around the lane, Ilyasova can float in or out and allow Embiid to go wherever would provide the best matchup.

Although originally giving up a decent second round pick for him was unwise, it was good of management to recognize a sunk cost and release Booker to make room for Ilyasova, rather than a younger player on a cheap contract going forward, like Richaun Holmes or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Ever since they drafted Ben Simmons, the Sixers have focused on surrounding him with as much shooting as possible. The return of Ersanity to Philadelphia is the latest step to achieve that vision, and more evidence the team is doing everything it can to help the team in the short term, without too heavily jeopardizing the future.

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