Another week of Sixers basketball is behind us and Philadelphia is no longer the NBA’s only unbeaten team after falling to the Suns on Monday night. The team went 1-1 in Joel Embiid’s absence, including a win over Portland aided by a Furkan Korkmaz game-winner.
I owe Korkmaz an apology. Here it is, plus some other thoughts on some Sixers.
1. That Furkan Korkmaz game-winner, y’all!
I spent last season defending Furkan Korkmaz, but by the time the season ended, I was basically done with that defending. It appeared his time in Philadelphia was over. He never really developed the shooting skills that were supposed to be his strength. Basically, I saw no reason to expect I would even have to defend Korkmaz again, because his whole NBA career seemed to have come to a close.
Well, look...I hate admitting I’m wrong, but I was wrong. Furkan is fine and he won the Sixers a game with this play:
I called Korkmaz my son so much last year that my wife woke up the morning after that game and said “did you see what your son did?” But I’ve been a bad basketball dad lately, and for that I sincerely apologize.
2. Speaking of Korkmaz, looks like he’s part of the rotation
While we’re on the subject of Furkan Korkmaz, in that Sixers loss to the Suns, Korkmaz started and played 33 minutes. He scored 20 points on 6-for-13 shooting, drained four of his seven 3s, and ultimately staked his claim for being the designated “Joel is out so let’s slide Horford and Tobias down a spot and play someone else at the three” guy.
Surprising, but Brett Brown clearly trusts Korkmaz, so I’m going to give this time and see how it goes.
3. The Sixers lost without Joel so the sky is falling, right?
The Philadelphia 76ers went 1-1 with Joel Embiid suspended. The win was almost a loss. Clearly, this team can’t win without him, right?
Nah. Come playoff time, you need Embiid because he’s such a versatile offensive weapon and a devastating defender, but you don’t necessarily need him every regular season game. This team can win without him (Editor’s note: please see the wins over Detroit and Portland for reference), though some kind of mid-season move to get an insurance big could probably be a good call.
4. We still haven’t seen Zhaire Smith
Smith is in Delaware with the Blue Coats, even though the Blue Coats season won’t start until Saturday.
When you consider that Philly has had a lot of questions about wings and guards already, you can clearly see that this is a problem if you’re still a Zhaire Smith believer. I’m going to keep a close eye on his G League performance, but...ugh, not an encouraging start, especially after how excited I got about his Summer League performances.
5. Raul Neto’s role grows
Last week in this column, I devoted some time to the idea that the Sixers should play Raul Neto more, because they definitely should play Raul Neto more.
Well, Neto’s played a bit more, including a season-high 12 minutes on Monday.
Neto’s playing time isn’t some game-changing thing for the 76ers. Him getting run won’t make or break this team.
But you need guards who can come in and give you solid minutes at times. I know Neto had a couple of turnovers on Monday, but right now, I’d much rather see him than Trey Burke or Shake Milton, because I trust Neto to not do as many bad things.
6. Is Thybulle playing his way out of the rotation?
One game isn’t much to glean from, but Matisse Thybulle playing just under five minutes on Monday feels relevant, especially when the first game of Embiid’s suspension was Thybulle’s previous season-low in minutes.
The thing about Thybulle is that his defense is very, very clearly NBA-ready, but the offensive end of things is still not coming together, and it looks like Brett Brown is starting to think that as long as it’s not together, Thybulle isn’t a net-positive on the court.
Thybulle’s O-PIPM ranks close to the bottom of the league and is fourth-lowest of all rookies. For a team that has a capable defense even without Thybulle on the floor, it makes sense to limit his minutes until he can be neutral or better on offense.
7. Horford took how many shots???
Talk about adapting to a new role.
With Embiid out, Al Horford took 24 shots against Portland, tied for the most of his career. He followed that up with 20 attempts against Phoenix.
Horford has never been a high-volume shooter, but with Embiid out and the Sixers needing another source of offense, he transformed into a different kind of player. Horford shot 50 percent or better in both games, took a lot of 3s, and scored a bunch of points. He was a plus-8 in one game, a minus-1 in the other, and these two games offered a glimpse into some other world for the veteran, a world where Al Horford is actually a point-scoring machine. Maybe it’s not a world that we should want to live in at all times, but it is a world that’s worth occasionally visiting.