Ersan Ilyasova is a wanted man.
That’s something for a player on his third team this season and fifth in the past two seasons.
The Hawks had a list of targeted players leading up to the NBA trade deadline and Ilyasova was on it. The team acquired the power forward from the 76ers for Tiago Splitter on Wednesday, one day before the deadline, with each on expiring contracts. The deal had been in the works for at least a week before it was finalized. The Hawks also gave up their second-round pick and will swap for the lesser of the 76ers two second-round picks of the 76ers this year.
“Lots of times there is lots of talk and you end up with nobody,” Hawks coach and president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer said. “To get somebody that we actually targeted I think we feel really good about that. …There were a group of guys we were very interested in and he would be one of them.”
Ilyasova played three games with the Thunder to start the season before being traded to the 76ers. He played 53 games for the 76ers before the Hawks acquired him for their playoff run. Ilyasova admitted to a bit of frustration in the nomadic lifestyle.
“It is what it is,” Ilyasova said Friday after his first practice with the Hawks. “That is part of the business. I see it as an opportunity. It’s a really good opportunity for me as far as being on a great team, being in a great situation, being a part of a playoff run. When I was in Philly, we just looked at the end of the season. Now, you change your goals. We are chasing the playoffs and a better spot.”
Ilyasova will make $8.4 million this season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Bryan Colangelo told reporters in Philadelphia after the trade that Ilyasova wanted a long-term deal in free agency and that didn’t work with the team’s future plans.
“It’s hard to focus on both things (contract and playoff run) at the same time,” Ilyasova said. “That’s why I will put that on the side with all my contract situation. Eventually, if you do what you are supposed to do in a game, all those things will take care of themselves.”
The 29-year-old Ilyasova averaged 14.8 points and 5.9 rebounds with the 76ers. He is averaging the most points of his nine-year NBA career. He shot .438 from the field and .353 from 3-point range in his time with the 76ers.
The Hawks needed the stretch power forward to add consistent outside shooting. The Hawks have lacked in the area this season and the trouble was exacerbated by the trade of shooting guard Kyle Korver.
“It’s a good addition to our team,” Paul Millsap said. “With his shooting and floor spacing, it’s something we are a little bit lacking right now, our shooting depth.”
Budenholzer said he sees the 6-foot-10 Ilyasova as a regular part of the big-man rotation and serve as a backup to Millsap. He envisioned being able to play both Millsap and Ilyasova together in a small lineup.
Budenholzer said Ilyasova will fit with the team’s defensive schemes. Millsap agreed having been guarded by Ilyasova a great deal as opponents.
“I play aggressive,” Ilyasova said. “I play with a lot of energy on both ends of the floor. I always believe even if you don’t make a lot of shots you can do a lot of things – help your teammates, stretch the floor, help each other offensively and defensively.
“I’ve been in this league and I’ve always believed that the way you win games is with defense. Your offense comes after defense. I’ve played for a lot of defensive coaches in my career. You pick up from each coach.”
Ilyasova made his Hawks debut in Friday’s loss to the Heat. He finished with nine points, all in the fourth quarter, on 3 of 7 shooting in his 16 minutes. He said after the game there is still much to learn but he felt more comfortable as the game progressed.
There has been a well-travelled past, including stints with the Pistons and Magic last season after his first seven seasons with the Bucks. Whether Ilyasova re-signs with the Hawks or packs his bags again this summer for a new destination remains to be seen. At least for now, he’s a wanted man.
“It always feels great when you are wanted by a team,” Ilyasova said. “It’s a tough situation to be traded three times in one year. … It’s toughest when you get traded after the All-Star break. You have 26 games left and you have to push yourself to pick up everything quickly.”
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