Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Ersan Ilyasova

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Ersan Ilyasova

Ersan Ilyasova

Position: Power Forward

Status for 2018-19: Unrestricted free agent

Ilyasova in 2017-18
After toiling away for half a season with the lowly Hawks, Ilyasova was bought out by Atlanta and decided to make his triumphant return to the Sixers.

Ilyasova took on a much smaller role than he did for the team in 2017-18, but still helped bolster the Sixers’ bench. In 23 games (three starts), Ilyasova averaged 10.8 points and 6.7 rebounds in 24.1 minutes a game. He also shot 36 percent from three on 3.6 attempts per contest.

The 10-year veteran provided a strong backup four to provide depth behind Dario Saric and complement Joel Embiid. Ilyasova also gave the Sixers an option as a backup five when teams threw a smaller lineup at head coach Brett Brown.

Ilyasova did struggle in the playoffs, especially in the Boston series. He shot 43 percent from the field, but shot only 29 percent from three. 

Signature game
In Game 81 in Atlanta, Ilyasova had his finest performance of the season, tying a season-high with 26 points. He also added eight rebounds, shooting 8 of 16 overall and hitting 4 of 8 threes in a 121-113 win.

Ilyasova clearly savored playing his former team this season. In two games against the Hawks, he averaged 23.5 points and 12 rebounds, both his highest numbers against any team this season.  

Looking ahead to 2018-19
This is a tricky situation. Ilyasova is an unrestricted free agent and a lot will ride on what the Sixers are able to accomplish this summer in free agency. Ilyasova has clearly enjoyed his time in Philadelphia and could probably be had on a cheaper deal.

With that said, the Sixers will have options. If they hit a home run in free agency, veteran players will be lining up to play for them. They also have 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden stashed overseas. Bolden could provide more athleticism at 22-years-old and more rim protection than Ilyasova. Bolden's shot is still a work in progress, but it has promise.

If there’s an opportunity to sign Ilyasova as an insurance policy, it makes sense. He provides versatility and clearly has the trust of Brett Brown.

On Ilyasova
“It was an amazing experience. I didn’t expect it to turn out the way it turned out. I know the team was special. As far as I was part of it, winning 16 games in a row, ending up in third seed of Eastern Conference, and being part of second round of the playoffs, it was amazing.”

- Ilyasova on reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time in his career

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Joel Embiid

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid

Position: Center

Status for 2018-19: First year of five-year extension at $25,250,000

Embiid in 2017-18
Coming into the season, the goal was for Embiid to prove he could stay healthy and be a dominant force at center. Mission accomplished. 

Sure, Embiid missed the last eight regular season games and the first two games of the postseason with an orbital bone fracture, but his legs being healthy is much more important. He also got to experience playing in back-to-back games for the first time. Embiid playing in 63 regular season games and eight more playoff contests is encouraging.

On the court, he showed more of what he did during his rookie season, earning a starting spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team and being named a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. 

He averaged 22.9 points, 11 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. The only players to accomplish those numbers in their second NBA season: David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Bob McAdoo and Hakeem Olajuwon. Embiid’s 21.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in the playoffs were only accomplished by McAdoo and Robinson in their second seasons. Pretty good company.

An interesting debate is whether Embiid should shoot more threes or spend more time in the post. His head coach certainly wants Embiid to take them. He shot just 31 percent from three after shooting 37 percent during his rookie season. Either way, it’s a weapon in the arsenal. It’s helpful for Embiid to occasionally clear the lane for Ben Simmons — and perhaps a new teammate that features a similar skill set to Simmons.

Signature game
This is a tough call because Embiid had so many signature performances, but there is one that stands above the rest. On Nov. 15 against the Lakers, Embiid had the most dominant performance of his young NBA career. The big man put up 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks and seven assists. Maybe as impressive, Embiid committed just two turnovers. That felt like the game when Embiid announced to the rest of the NBA that he and the Sixers had arrived.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
This is an enormous offseason for Embiid. He’s not rehabbing an injury and can focus on his fitness and the nuances of his game. He’ll begin the first season of his huge five-year extension with the bitter taste of a playoff loss.

For as dominant as Embiid was, there are still things he can work on. The biggest thing has to be for him to be in shape to handle at least 70-plus NBA games. 

Another issue is still turnovers. Too often, Embiid forces the action or doesn’t recognize double teams quick enough. More game experience is the best way for him to improve in this department, but he can watch game tape and see how teams are defending him.

If the Sixers were to acquire a star wing player(s), it’ll be intriguing to see how it will elevate Embiid’s game.

On Embiid
“This is my first year going into a summer healthy. I think next year is going to be an MVP-type season for me. I don’t feel like taking any time off. I already miss basketball.”

- Embiid on his offseason

6 prospects Sixers could target in 2018 NBA draft

6 prospects Sixers could target in 2018 NBA draft

After Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, we know the Sixers will hold pick Nos. 10 and 26 (see story). Here are six prospects that could interest them at those spots.

At No. 10
Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova

Bridges offers great size, length and athleticism. Those traits will allow him to guard one through four at the next level. He’s an ideal fit for the Sixers, who love to switch on everything. His shot and overall scoring improved each year he was at Villanova. He’ll need to diversify his offensive game a bit to earn more minutes at the next level.

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State
The other Bridges is an explosive athlete with a thick frame. He’ll earn his money in the NBA on the defensive end of the floor. His shot is a bit inconsistent (38 percent from three) but his form is solid. The Celtics threw a whole bunch of athletes at the Sixers defensively during the Eastern Conference semifinals. Bridges could help the Sixers get on their level.

Michael Porter Jr., SF/PF, Missouri
Chances are Porter won’t be there at 10, but it’s a possibility. Porter was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school. A back injury that required surgery forced him to miss all but three games during his freshman season. If teams are scared off by the injury, it could be an opportunity for the Sixers to swoop in. Porter will be too big for wings to guard and too athletic for big men. His jump shot is strong, but he’ll need to develop his feel for the game at the next level.

At No. 26
Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State

Coming from Boise State, questions will arise about Hutchison’s level of competition, but this kid looks like a player. He’s a long athlete that’s added muscle to his frame every year. He’s seen tremendous growth as a shooter and driver. He needs to develop his left hand a little more and could still stand to add a little more weight, but Hutchison is an intriguing prospect in the back end of the first.

Bruce Brown Jr., G, Miami
Brown profiles more as an athlete than a basketball player at this point. His shot actually regressed in his sophomore season (35 percent to 27 percent from three), but the freshman year shows there may be potential there. Brown has proven to be a decent facilitator (four assists per game) and rebounder (7.1 boards per game). Like Miles Bridges, he’s an athlete that will add something on both ends.

Donte DiVincenzo, G, Villanova
DiVincenzo grew every season for the Wildcats, culminating in earning the Most Outstanding Player in the championship game. DiVincenzo is a tremendous athlete that provided Villanova instant offense and unbelievable energy off the bench. While his value will likely never be higher, the Michael Jordan of Delaware may choose to come back and help defend the Wildcats’ title. With that said, he probably has the tools to help an NBA team off the bench next season.