Story by KL Chouinard
Ersan Ilyasova gave the Hawks a taste of his talents this season.
Acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 22, the 6-foot-10 forward came to Atlanta and immediately started doing the things for which he is known: setting screens, making threes, crashing the glass for defensive rebounds and making decisive defensive rotations.
Those quick-witted defensive maneuvers often led to him drawing offensive fouls on opponents. His 36 charges drawn led the NBA this season. The 30-year-old led the NBA in another category too, although he shared the honor with 16 other players league-wide.
“I was in Milwaukee for eight years, and one year I played 81 games,” he said. “This year, I played all 82 games and all of the playoff games. I was really blessed with it.”
Unlike the other players who played in every game, the nine-year veteran faced the challenge of doing it for three different teams: the Thunder, the 76ers and the Hawks.
“All those trades were tough,” Ilyasova said. “Changing two teams in one season is way too much, but I tried to fight through it and stay healthy, and stay strong mentally.”
Ilyasova reflected fondly on both Philadelphia and Atlanta, even though the two situations differed greatly in his eyes.
“One thing about Philly, I spent a very good time there with nice guys,” he said. “I think it was the best time of my career, and I was playing really well, but I can say the same thing for Atlanta and the playoff experience there. When you look at those two teams, obviously Philly is a really young team, inexperienced, and when you get traded to Atlanta, there a lot of veterans. There is more experience and different goals. It was a good experience to be part of the playoffs.”
Ilyasova didn’t just survive his stints in three places. He thrived, setting career highs in total points (1071) and total assists (141), and tying his best career mark for defensive rebounds (366). He also obliterated his previous best in three-point field goals. Prior to 2016-17, Ilyasova had never made more than 96 threes. This season, he knocked down 142.
As far as his summer plans go, Ilyasova said that he remained undecided on playing for his home country of Turkey in the European championship. Eurobasket 2017 begins Aug. 31 with most countries starting their training sessions roughly five or six weeks earlier. He said that his choice depends partly on his timeline for selecting an NBA home for the 2017-18 season
“I’ll figure out all of those things as quickly as possible, probably, and I will consider it,” he said.
As he pondered his professional future, Ilyasova took a philosophical viewpoint toward being traded five times in 24 months.
“When you look at trades, you’re always wondering if it was a good thing or a bad thing,” he said. “Teams don’t want you, but other teams want you. It (works) both ways. I’ll always try to get positive things out of it because as soon as you start overthinking it, it is not going to work well for you. I just try to get the best out of my situation.”