The Sixers aren’t losers anymore. The bandwagon is overflowing. Multiple potential superstars line the roster. The team sold out its initial allotment of season tickets. The new world-class practice facility draws rave reviews from every player on the roster as camp kicks off. Legitimate NBA players are competing for minutes throughout the entire roster.
Gone are the days of fringe NBA players trying not to give away their shots. Gone are the brick-layers of yesteryear. Some vestiges of that era remain - here’s to Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell for kicking down their proverbial doors into the NBA - but most of the roster are well-established athletes or are high draft picks with the pedigree to be great someday. Also, Jahil Okafor is still around, but even he’s turned a new leaf.
It’s a new day, yes it is. And we’re going to celebrate it in our player previews, which will focus on the change in the air, the new faces, and the old faces in new era of Sixers basketball. We’ll compare and contrast the old and the new, though the writers here might change the format up day-by-day. Today's discussion centers around Nik Stauskas, Jerryd Bayless, and Furkan Korkmaz, the three wings whose primary roles will be providing spacing.
The Sixers want to be on the cutting edge of basketball. In Sam Hinkie’s now (in?)famous resignation letter, he detailed the premium that the team was placing on 3-point shooting. He pointed to the unexpected success of the trend-bucking 2009 Orlando Magic as indicative of future trends, a development that culminated in the performances of the two 2015 NBA Finalists.
“Golden State made the 3rd most 3s in NBA history to win the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made the 8th most 3s in NBA history. Coach Van Gundy’s most 3PAhappy team from Orlando proudly sits smack dab between them in 5th place all time (for now),” Hinkie wrote.
This was a playing style the Sixers sought to emulate during his tenure, and have continued to enact since he left. Since 2013-14, the Sixers have placed 13th, 6th, 8th, and 7th in the league in 3PA per game, consistently placing in the top third since Doug Collins-era players were cleared out.
The only problem has been the lack of reliable shooters.
In that same time period, the Sixers have placed 30th, 29th, 24th, and 24th in 3-point shooting percentage. It’s nice that they’re taking the right kinds of shots, but eventually the team is, you know, going to have to start making a few.
The Sixers have taking some steps towards remedying this glaring problem with the signing of JJ Redick in the offseason. But he’s not the only player the team is hoping will fill the shooting void.
Nik Stauskas, Furkan Korkmaz, and Jerryd Bayless are on this team because of one skill, and one skill only: They can shoot the ball.
Before they both missed the entirety of last season, Bayless was signed as a shooting guard companion to Ben Simmons— someone who could play off-ball and provide the court spacing Ben needed while simultaneously providing some (read: “minimal”) point of attack defense. Bayless was attractive as a player whose full value was tied up in his shooting; unlike many point guards, Bayless lacked the creation chops to be giving much up when he moved off-ball, making him a good fit next to Simmons.
Stauskas, meanwhile, was drafted for his incandescent shooting during his sophomore year at Michigan. He showed some playmaking chops as well, but was mostly seen as a surefire, knockdown shooter. Three years into his career, neither aspect of his game has translated. He’s a career 34.8% 3-point shooter, and, despite some growth on-ball last year, has struggled to deal with the increased athleticism at the NBA level.
Korkmaz is the youngest of the trio of shooters, and, as such, engenders the most optimism. Only 20 years old and every bit of 6’8, Korkmaz rose to prominence in Europe as a sharpshooter, having shot above 40% from three two out of the last three seasons, and turning in a 39.8% season in the outstanding one.
These three guys are on the team to provide Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Joel Embiid the spacing they’ll need to reach their highest highs. With Redick and Covington having locked down the starting wing positions, they’ll also be competing for minutes together (and against TLC/Anderson) as they try to nail down spots as the bench shooters.
Bayless and Stauskas are likely to see the majority of the minutes in this role to start the season. But similarly to TLC last year, expect Korkmaz to slowly establish himself within the rotation, perhaps after a stint in Delaware to start the year. This role will probably come down to whomever shoots the ball most effectively. After years of non-shooters, it’s nice to see some potential competition.