Sixers fans have been waiting patiently for the franchise to move one of their front-court players. Much to everyone’s surprise, the first man to go won’t be Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor. Jerami Grant, come on down!
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojarowski is reporting that the Sixers will send Grant to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova and a conditional pick. The status of the pick headed Philadelphia’s way is is a future first-rounder, first reported by USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt, with further clarification coming courtesy of The Vertical’s Bobby Marks:
The future pick that goes to Philadelphia from OKC is protected 1-20. 76ers will get a first if it falls between 21-30. https://t.co/QbpdCyzLNY— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) November 1, 2016
Even with heavy protections, getting a potential first-round pick of any caliber back for Grant is a good move. Sixers fans who appreciate the Russell Westbrook experience now have added incentive to root for his success as the alpha dog in Oklahoma City — Philadelphia would directly benefit from the Thunder remaining competitive in a crowded Western Conference.
As for the incoming player, Ilyasova does one thing much better than Grant, and it happens to be exactly what the team needs. Ilyasova will be a downgrade in the athleticism and defense department, but he should immediately upgrade the team’s shooting. A 36.9 percent shooter from downtown over eight years in the league, Ilyasova should benefit post players like Joel Embiid and Okafor just being on the court.
Getting a protected first for Grant serves the dual purpose of inflating the value (or at least “perceived” value) of more coveted players on the Sixers’ roster. Bryan Colangelo has held firm in his stance that he won’t give up Okafor or Noel for sub-standard offers, and this sort of move acts partially as a statement of intent on that front.
Grant has yet to prove he can shoot well enough to be a part of the Sixers’ long-term plans, so moving on makes sense. The only concerning angle is the short-term nature of this move; Grant was under contract for pennies through the 2017-18 season, and still has fungible upside as a player. Ilyasova might bolster the rotation right now, but he’s on an expiring deal and is what he is.
In a vacuum, it’s a reasonably solid deal. If the “get vets now” approach is revealed to be the team’s broader philosophy rather than a situational play, however, fans will be justified in wondering if the team is simply repeating trends they’ve seen and rejected in the past.