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Furkan Korkmaz at the FIBA Qualifiers

Furkan Korkmaz played some games in Europe. Let’s talk about them.

2018 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas - Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I’m not quite sure how I’ve become the resident Furkan Korkmaz guy here after a month at Liberty Ballers. Maybe it’s because no one else was doing it as we’ve got so many great writers already breaking down the games of the other Sixers, or maybe I just think rooting for and talking about players on the fringes of the roster is a fun thing to do.

Regardless of the reason, Korkmaz played two games this weekend in Europe as part of second round qualifying for the FIBA World Cup, and I decided to watch both of them so I could bring y’all an update on how one of Turkey’s best players looked. I also have some Sixers-adjacent thoughts from the games as well. Let’s talk about them!

9/14/2018: Turkey vs. Montenegro

Some non-Korkmaz notes:

  • The first quarter for Turkey was mainly fueled by big man Semih Erden. Turkey built a 26-18 lead after the first quarter thanks to Erden’s presence inside. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Montenegro managed to close the gap once Erden was off the court — Erden’s veteran presence mattered a lot here, especially early in the game when Turkey had him on the court with Ersan Ilyasova.
  • Illyasova didn’t play the heavy minutes some other players did — with this being his first outing with Turkey’s national team since 2015, it’s likely they wanted to limit his minutes in the middle part of the game.
  • If any Cavaliers fans are reading this, Cedi Osman looked good. His shot wasn’t falling early, but he was active, drove to the basket well, made good decisions, and did strong work on the glass.

Okay, let’s talk more about Korkmaz. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out one assist. He was just 1-for-4 from three.

He didn’t start, but after coming in at the five-minute mark, he ended up playing heavy minutes for Turkey. I’m going to look at and talk about his actual shots in a minute, but first a couple of observations.

First, while Korkmaz’s shot is beautiful and definitely NBA-ready, his off-ball work on offense was often questionable in this one. I get that he’s at his most dangerous behind the arc, but there were too many possessions where he headed to the corner, stood around, stood around some more, and then...that was it.

Second, there were a lot of times defensively where he gave his man too much cushion, but I mostly just forgot that he was there on that end of the court, aside from when he came away with a couple of steals. And honestly — good! There’s been a ton of talk about Korkmaz being terrible defensively; forgettable is a step up from terrible.

Alright, shot time. Let’s talk about a couple of the highlight plays.

Please forgive the fact that these highlights are not in English.

A few key moments from this video:

  • With 6:28 left in the second, Korkmaz has the ball on the left wing. He gets the screen, dribbles around, drives into the paint, and hits the contested lay-up. Some good burst on this play.
  • 5:51 to go in the second and he takes a couple steps back from the baseline and drills the catch-and-shoot jumper. I’ve definitely said this before, but the one thing that doesn’t worry me about Korkmaz is his shooting. I know that his G-League stats weren’t the best last season, but I’d feel comfortable if the Sixers needed him on that end of the court.
  • 3:22 to go in the second and he hits a catch-and-shoot three-pointer. Everything I just wrote above still remains true.
  • With 5:42 to go in the fourth, Turkey runs a play in which both Korkmaz and Ege Arar cut to the basket. I assume there’s some miscommunication going on as both players seem to think they’re about to be on the receiving end of an alley oop, but ultimately the ball ends up in Korkmaz’s hands and he lays it in. Should the Sixers steal this set? (No.)

9/17/2018: Turkey vs. Slovenia

Here are some non-Furkan thoughts from this game. For the record, I was only able to watch the first half of this live, which sadly did not correlate with Korkmaz’s best moments. These games in the middle of the day on a weekday are not great for those of us wanting to watch and talk about them.

  • It was really great to see Scottie Wilbekin playing a major role for Turkey in this one. Wilbekin finished with 22 points and four assists, but he limped off late in the fourth quarter.
  • Anthony Randolph came up big in this one for Slovenia. I can’t imagine what this game looks like if they don’t have him to score the ball.
  • Semih Erden wasn’t nearly the factor he was in the first game.
  • Ersan Ilyasova blocked a dunk at one point and I stood up off my couch like I was watching an NBA playoff game.

Okay, Furkan! After a slow start (four points at the half), Korkmaz stepped things up in the second half, finishing the game with 24 points on 8/14 shooting. He made three of his five attempts from deep, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out a pair of assists.

Here’s FIBA’s official highlight video of Korkmaz and Cedi Osman:

Some thoughts:

  • There’s a really nice play with 4:50 left in the second quarter. Korkmaz gets the ball on the wing and thinks about passing before pulling the ball back in. At that point, he’s got a lot of space around him if he wants to fire up the three, but after a quick pump fake, he sees Ersan Ilyasova has come open and is streaking toward the basket. Korkmaz makes the smart decision to get the ball into him for the easy two.
  • A little later in the quarter, Turkey gets the turnover and Cedi Osman throws the ball ahead to Korkmaz. Fast break dunk. Two points.
  • Just after the nine minute mark in the third, Korkmaz shows some more good ball fake skills. He fakes, steps forward, then steps back, creating enough space for him to hit the three. This game features some good moments where he’s able to create a bit of a bubble between himself and the nearby defenders, opening up shooting and passing lanes. There’s obviously some adjustments that have to be made for the NBA game — specifically, NBA defenses are going to be a lot faster to react, which could neutralize Korkmaz’s pump fake game. But for now, it’s something worth keeping an eye on.
  • 4:30 left in the third. A Sertac Sanli screen up above the top of the arc frees up some space for Korkmaz to hit the three. I’m mainly just pointing this one out because I’m a big fan of high screens.
  • With just under a minute to go in the quarter, Osman drives to the basket and passes out to Korkmaz for three at the last second. The play starts at the 1:40 minute mark of the video and is a fun thing to watch if you miss basketball.
  • Just in general, I really liked Korkmaz’s off-ball movement compared to the first game.

Overall, these two games showcase a lot of the reasons we already like Furkan Korkmaz. He’s a great shooter, but there are concerns about how the rest of his game will develop. These outings for Turkey have me feeling better about some of those concerns and about his chances of being more than just a spot-up shooter, should he end up in the Sixers rotation this season.

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