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Sixers Mailbag - What’s the team’s best draft scenario?

What would the Sixers do with the first and fourth picks?

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Liberty Ballers mailbag returns this week with a new writer: me. Why did they let me do this? I’m not sure, but here we go! In this edition, I discuss Furkan Korkmaz, whether I’m ready to risk it all for Markelle Fultz and more.

@John_Mount: What's the latest on Furkan Korkmaz? How's he doing overseas and when is his realistic ETA?

Korkmaz began his first season as a Sixers draftee overseas playing for Anadolu Efes, formerly of Dario Saric fame, in the Turkish Basketball Super League. Amidst a lack of playing time there (just over nine minutes per game in 15 contests), Efes loaned Korkmaz to Banvit, a club in the same Turkish league. In his 21 games with Banvit, he has played almost 24 minutes per game while averaging 10.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals in each contest. He’s shooting 44.5 percent from the floor (182 attempts), 41.6 percent from behind the arc (89 attempts) and 75.9 percent from the charity stripe (29 attempts).

I was very high on Korkmaz going into last year’s draft. I had him ranked ninth on my big board before Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers ultimately selected him with the 26th pick in the draft. Here’s what I wrote about him last June in a blurb for Liberty Ballers:

Another Furkan? Am I dreaming? Given Korkmaz's age, as he won't turn 19 until July, he'll spend a few seasons continuing to develop overseas much like his (soon-to-be former) teammate Dario Saric has done. Fear not though, the 6'7 wing has the athleticism and hops -- think more Mario Hezonja and less the stereotypically stiff European prospect -- as well as the sweet outside-shooting stroke (41.5 percent from deep for Anadolu Efes over the last two years) to fit right in with today's pace-and-space NBA. Putting on weight and muscle, which would mitigate his weaknesses in on-ball defense and scoring at the cup, should be his primary concerns before coming stateside.

My biggest takeaway nearly one-year later is that Korkmaz’s three-point accuracy continues to be great, as he’s shooting nearly the same rate with Banvit as he did in his two previous seasons with Efes. Sixers fans have seen that there is certainly an adjustment period that comes with a rookie translating his shot from overseas with Saric as a prime example, but Saric was never shooting over 41 percent from deep at 17, 18 and 19 years old. This feels much more real.

The athleticism is still there too. At 6’7”, he’s long enough to combine that athletic ability with his size to be a good defender one day, but that day is not today. He can get overpowered due to his lack of strength and weight on the ball at times, an issue that presents itself on the other side of the court as well given his poor free throw rate (1.4 attempts per game with Banvit). He has the skills to be a regular contributor, but he needs to get stronger. The question over when he should come over to the Sixers then becomes about where he could develop that aspect of his game better.

I’m inclined to think he would benefit more so from an NBA strength and conditioning program than whatever he’s dealing with in Turkey. Perhaps the positives the team has seen with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot this year when it wasn’t clear that he was he NBA ready would convince them that Korkmaz could translate smoothly to the league next season. Lee Jenkins’ profile of Nikola Jokic for Sports Illustrated comes to mind here as well, where the Nuggets desperately wanted to bring Jokic over in 2015 due to the weight and conditioning problems that were constant for him overseas for Mega Leks in Serbia.

Korkmaz will return to Efes after this loan is completed at the end of the season, but he does have an NBA out in his contract with the Turkish club for this summer. I don’t think Colangelo would be opposed to adding another outside-shooting threat to the roster on a late first-round pick’s rookie contract.

I wouldn’t guarantee it, but it seems more likely than not that I’ll be waiting in the customs area of the Philadelphia International Airport for Korkmaz’s arrival in the United States this summer.

I would also recommend checking out this thread of Korkmaz .gifs of his recent play from Brazilian writer Gabriel Andrade.

@brian_kutza: Pick 5 current Sixers that you do not want to be on the 2017-18 opening day roster. (exclude Poythress)

I’m going to go with Tiago Splitter, Shawn Long, Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson and Jahlil Okafor. Let’s tackle each of them individually.

Splitter is one of a seemingly endless amount of centers on the team with injury issues. He’s 32 and on an expiring contract. There’s no future here for him in this overstuffed frontcourt and I would assume he’d rather catch on as a bench big with a contender.

Long has been a nice success story for the D-League and the Delaware 87ers this season. He actually has a higher Win Shares/48 minutes rate and Box Plus/Minus than Joel Embiid this season. He can tell his grandchildren that story one day! Long, ultimately, is a 24-year-old rookie though. I would prefer to use the Sixers’ two available two-way D-League contracts next season for three-and-D players that could possibly fit in well with the Simmons/Joel Embiid/Dario Saric core, but I think he’ll still be a candidate for one of those deals. Maybe Long has a future in this league, but I don’t see it being in Philadelphia with this big man rotation.

Rodriguez arrived in Philly last summer as a bench point guard option who could work off the ball and knock down a few threes in a Simmons-centric offense. That plan, much like all plans when it comes to the Sixers, went awry. He was forced into a starting gig since Jerryd Bayless signed a contract with the team despite having a nagging wrist that would keep him out of all but three games this season. His erratic play eventually lead to Grit Master and Philly Heartthrob T.J. McConnell replacing him in the starting lineup.

He turns 31 years old in June and is an unrestricted free agent. Bayless will (hopefully) be back healthy next season. McConnell’s inspired play, age and cheap contract all leave him as a solid future bench piece in Philly. This is before even getting into the Sixers adding a guard in June’s NBA draft (more on that below). El Chacho is a name that will live on forever amongst the hardest of hardcore Sixers fans, but his time as a Sixer is up.

Henderson has one non-guaranteed year left on his contract worth $9 million. He’ll turn 30 in December. Having a “stabilizing veteran presence” might not be as important on a team another year older next season.

Robert Covington has one starting wing position locked down. Luwawu-Cabarrot flashed bits and pieces as a legit NBA wing player as a rookie and will be due for an uptick in playing time. Nik Stauskas still has lottery pedigree, a league-average three-point ball and offers some ball-handling abilities that could work well as a guard alongside Simmons. This is before even getting into Justin Anderson or the wings the Sixers could add in free agency (J.J. Redick to keep Jerry Colangelo’s Duke love going?) or the draft. Thanks for all of the fadeaway long-twos you made this year, Hendo, but I think it’s best for the Sixers to move on.

Then comes Okafor. His status as a member of the team has been discussed ad nauseam since the day the Sixers drafted him in 2015. I think even the staunchest Okafor supports would concede that Richaun Holmes has outplayed him on both sides of the court this season. Holmes has solidified himself as Embiid’s future backup over the course of the next two years of his rookie contract. An ideal third big man could switch between the two frontcourt positions and provide some semblance of defensive value. As has become clear, that’s not Okafor’s game. It seems like a divorce is best for both parties here. Colangelo should get whatever he can for the center on Draft Night, turning the page and ending the Okafor chapter for the franchise.

@happyhalladays: If we get something like picks #4 & 5, do you take 2 players (Monk, Isaac)? Or do you try to package those picks for #1 or 2?

@Jaymie_bonino: Best case draft scenario. (Take who at picks 1 and 4)?

I’m going to lump these two questions together since they crossover a bit. I want to first discuss the talent of the draft. I think Markelle Fultz is in a tier to himself as the best prospect in this draft and would also say that he’s the best guard prospect since John Wall in 2010. Any scenario that ends with Fultz as a part of the Sixers’ future on Draft Night is ideal to me.

The Sixers could land some combination of the fourth and fifth picks or the fifth and sixth picks in June’s draft if the Lakers’ top-three protected pick falls their way in the lottery. I can’t see those two selections on their own being enough to land the draft’s top pick and Fultz. Two quarters aren’t equal to a half-dollar coin, so to speak, when it comes to talent in the NBA. One great player is more valuable than two good players. That’s the level of talent that’s needed when it comes to moving the needle of a franchise’s trajectory towards true contention.

I understand that the Sixers have two presumed future stars on its roster in Embiid and Simmons, but with the former’s injury concerns and the fact that the latter hasn’t taken the court yet, the Sixers could still certainly use a player with franchise-changing potential. I would quickly move the team’s own pick and the Lakers pick if it conveys for the right to draft Fultz, but I don’t see it being that easy. I’d imagine it may take more in the way of picks (the team has four second rounders currently) and/or players to get that sort of deal done. It just makes the most sense for the team that lands the draft’s top pick to take the best player and call it a day. They’re not going to overthink it.

As for who I’d like for the Sixers to pair with Fultz if they were to get the first and fourth selections in the draft, I’m going to assume that Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson are taken with the second and third picks. That leaves the Sixers with their pick of a group of players that would include Jayson Tatum, Jonathan Isaac and Malik Monk. I’m not as high on Tatum as others may be, so I will discuss Isaac and Monk. I had Isaac third on my Liberty Ballers big board last month. He has monster defensive potential to me at 6’10” with a wingspan over 7’1” to go along with a three-point shot (34.8 percent from three and 78.0 percent from the free throw line at Florida State). A defensive lineup that has Simmons, Fultz, Covington and Isaac switching and blitzing ball-handlers with Embiid manning the paint would be too much for me to pass up.

When it comes to Monk, I have two different thoughts regarding the Kentucky freshman. If the Sixers were to only get, say, the fifth pick in this draft and select Monk, I’d be disappointed that he was their lone takeaway from another rough season. I would prefer a player with more two-way potential as compensation for losing 50+ games this year. Malik “Lakers Pick” Monk, however, is a different player in my mind.

Having Fultz work as the team’s secondary ball-handler opposite Simmons leaves Monk free just to throw up catch-and-shoot bombs from beyond the arc and be the Sixers’ future Irrational Confidence Guy come playoff time. Fultz’s presence at 6’6” would allow him to defend the tougher of the opposing team’s two guards and hide the 6’3” Monk to a degree defensively too.

Fultz alone would be phenomenal this summer, but adding Isaac or Monk as well could make the Sixers’ future truly special.

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