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Furkan Korkmaz and his pump fake will have a key role in Sixers’ playoff run

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Philadelphia 76ers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

It was just over a week ago when Sixers Head Coach Brett Brown gave us some insider information: one of the five player lineups he’ll employ during times superstar center Joel Embiid is off the floor. This lineup of Tobias Harris, Furkan Korkmaz, Al Horford, Matisse Thybulle and Ben Simmons would likely feature Simmons in more of his traditional “on ball” role. Without Shake Milton or Josh Richardson on the floor, Tobias Harris becomes the only other player who really sees a lot of ball-handling volume among the group. Harris, Horford, and Korkmaz all provide floor spacing for Simmons to wreak havoc while Thybulle provides, well all of the ‘Tisse stuff:

But let’s focus on the 23 year old sniper from Istanbul for a moment. Back in November of last year, Coach Brown talked about trying to “grow a bomber.” And it really seems like he has succeeded.

OK sure, you may have watched most of the Sixers’ 2020 season with the same morbid fascination that you watch Nature is Metal with on Instagram. But Korkmaz has emerged as an unexpected bright spot this year:

He’s come a long way from the player who had his third year option declined in the fall of 2018. He’s come a long way from the player who asked for a trade out of Philadelphia. He’s come a long way from the player who was pretty much passed over by the other 29 teams last summer too. The Sixers were fortunate to recover his services on a two year deal that was signed on Furkan’s 22nd birthday back in 2019. Now it’s looking more and more like he’s going to play a vital bench role for a team who can always use another shooter.

When Korkmaz is in the game you can just tell all of his teammates are keenly aware of his presence. He rarely gets forgotten when open. Whether it’s in transition, side line out of bounds, a pick-n-pop with Simmons, cross-courter, or swing pass it’s Operation Find Furkan:

Contrast with some other spot up shooters on the team. The Sixers are not generally great at creating or spotting open corner triples. They ranked 23rd in the league for the percentage of their shots that were taken from the deep corners. Here’s a still shot from yesterday’s scrimmage below, Harris opts to hit Horford top of the key (who had the hot hand and made it) instead of Josh Richardson in the corner. My hunch is if that was Korkmaz and not Richardson parked out there, the ball finds the corner but I could be wrong:

Pump Fake

Korkmaz has a...

By this point defenses already know about Korkmaz’s super high and convincing pump fake but they still bite. It’s pretty fun to watch them go flying by as he reloads after a step to his left and drills a triple.

But let’s get really greedy for a minute, shall we?

There are instances when Korkmaz is leaving money on the table.

As the Sixers head into the bubble ranked just 21st overall on free throw attempts per contest, they’re going to need to scrap and claw for every whistle. And Korkmaz looks like he might have a chance for some more freebies (which are higher percentage shots than the tough pull ups he often takes following a pump) and possibly even a few extra 4 point plays.

Purists may revile at the notion of such a likable player suddenly dipping a shoulder or hip into an airborne defender like Reggie Miller, James Harden, or Dwyane Wade. But they’d quickly forgive him once he mastered the 3 shot foul and the 4 point play. Ask fans of the aforementioned Hall of Famers how much they mind.

Here, notice Korkmaz occasionally lets his victims off the hook by avoiding contact:

Contrast Furk with Wade, the master of the ploy, who probably has more career points off this move alone than all of Korkmaz’s 946 career points:

But it’s also just fun to step back and look at a guy who has worked hard to improve on both ends of the floor come so far. No doubt the Sixers will look to spring him open these playoffs in the bubble.