This past year has been somewhat tumultuous for the 76ers. Whether you look back at this past summer when Ben Simmons was making it known that he was worth the first pick or the emergence of Joel Embiid as one of the best centers in the league, the Colangelo era has shown promise for the future. Hinkie and his process might have left Philly but the pieces he pushed for still remain.
Though there’s controversy over the Okafor/Noel scenario and Brett Brown’s coaching abilities late in games, the team is still on pace to double their win total from last year. Joel Embiid is the star on the roster and majority of the team’s wins can be attributed to his success. But because of his minute restrictions Embiid isn’t the only player driving this team in the right direction. Role players have made a huge contribution this season whether it’s Dario Saric or Sergio Rodriguez and one has came out this season posting career numbers. Losing a piece of the process with Jerami Grant ended up working in Philly’s favor. Bringing on Ersan Ilyasova was one of the smartest moves Colangelo has made as GM.
He looks like James Franco and Frankenstein put together and in his ten year career has played for seven teams but his odd background doesn’t stop him from putting in work. Ilyasova was traded to the Sixers just three games into the season and there hasn’t been any looking back since. In the 30 games he’s played with the Sixers there’s been 17 games where he has started. So why is a 29 year old that’s spent a career fighting for playing time starting on a struggling young team? He fits in with the rest of the starting five.
Pairing Embiid with either Okafor or Noel hasn’t worked and likely won’t anytime soon so that doesn’t leave too many other options. Dario Saric has played well for an inexperienced euroleague rookie and Richaun Holmes has been spending most of his time developing in the d-league. So this leaves Ersan. A shooting percentage of 81.8% and averaging 40% from three is enough to justify that without Ersan, this team wouldn’t be scoring. His 14.9 ppg is also a career high and to prove that he’s not one dimensional, Ersan is also pulling in 6.5 rpg as an undersized power forward. To simply put it, the Sixers win games when Ilyasova is getting minutes.
Ilyasova is the kind of player that Embiid needs on the floor with him. For the most part, Ersan takes smarter shots than his shooting counterparts. Having Ersan on the perimeter We rarely seeWill he be on the roster next year? There’s a chance, but it’s hard to tell as we are still unsure of how GM Bryan Colangelo is trying to build the team. He’s served the stretch-four role well but being a journeyman and averaging career numbers this season can be a challenge in free agency. The deciding factor to bring him back could be how well he plays when Ben Simmons is back.
A decrease in minutes could hurt his game but this wouldn’t be the first time in his career that his playing time was snubbed. Ersan is always going to be the same foul-drawing, spot-up perimeter player and that’s exactly what this team needs. It’s also nice to have a veteran in the locker room so unless he’s looking for a crazy offer in July it would make sense for Colangelo to keep him in the offseason.
The Sixers are not going to make the playoffs this year but it always helps to have band-aid players like Ilyasova when the going gets rough. There’s nothing special to his game and that’s perfectly fine. You always know what you’re going to get from Ilyasova and that’s what makes him stand out from the other players on the roster.
Writer: Tylar Pomroy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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image courtesy: Star Tribune