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Can Furkan Korkmaz be a crunch-time option?

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The Turkish sharpshooter has taken a big step forward

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

For the last several years, the Sixers have had trouble developing non-lottery draft picks into difference makers. We all know about the Richaun Holmes’, Timothe Luwawu-Cabrrot’s and Jerami Grant’s of Sixers history, but no one in recent memory fits this narrative more than Furkan Korkmaz. Drafted 26th overall in 2016, Korkmaz showed impressive athleticism and knockdown shooting ability that made many fans believe he could be a big help in some capacity on the team. I mean, just watch him skying for dunks dressed as Darth Vader and try telling me you couldn’t see him hoisting up a Finals MVP Trophy.

The problem is, when Korkmaz came stateside all of these abilities somehow disappeared when it mattered most. His inconsistent shot and inability to show off his athleticism or play decent defense forced him down the bench for much of his first two years in the NBA. He still showed glimpses of what he was capable of, but mostly relegated to the role of “human victory cigar,” it seemed as if the idea of Korkmaz being an influential role player was gone.

After signing a new deal to stay in Philadelphia, Furkan Korkmaz seems to have a renewed energy and it is helping make him a mainstay in the Sixers rotation. Brett Brown proclaimed at the beginning of the year that the team needed to “grow a bomber” and Korkmaz has become exactly that, someone that can be counted on to come off the bench and make plays.

It’s pretty incredible to realize that Korkmaz has statistically improved across the board so far this season, and while it isn’t a huge sample size, you still have to be impressed by the growth. In 23 minutes per game, he is averaging 9.1 points, while shooting 43 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from deep, all career-highs. He has proven to be one of the more reliable shooters on the team to this point in the season, and while you can’t expect a streaky shooter to all of a sudden become lights out, it is nice to have another option in which the coaching staff feels confident.

Korkmaz also seems much stronger this season, the added muscle allowing him to drive inside much more and finish close to the basket, instead of just standing on the wing every possession. When you see all of this and the new development that he is no longer a defensive turnstile, Korkmaz has a chance to become one of the most important Sixers on the bench. It took a few years, but it finally looks like Furkan Korkmaz is not only confident in his game, but also his role on the team.

Just because he can be a reliable option throughout the year doesn’t necessarily mean that he should be used in the guts of an important playoff game though. Largely untested in playoff scenarios, Korkmaz is going to need to prove that he can defend at a high level and be at least an average shooter in order to crack a smaller rotation. Right now, the Sixers are showing enough faith in him to have him playing meaningful minutes in regular season crunch time, but the playoffs are a whole different animal. We saw what he can do when needed most in Portland, and if that is the untapped potential of “Late Game Kork,” then the Sixers need to be able to exploit that as the season goes on.

With the newfound confidence that Korkmaz has displayed and the growth on both ends of the court, there is a solid chance that he will work his way into a trusted bench role deep in the season. He has earned that opportunity. The Turkish sharpshooter has changed a lot of people’s opinions on him so far this year, and now the hope is that this leads to him being a focal point of the bench unit when things get tight heading into playoff time.