Philadelphia 76ers: Is there a role for Furkan Korkmaz?

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Furkan Korkmaz starred for the Philadelphia 76ers during Summer League play, but can he find a role on the team next season?

Summer League is little like real NBA basketball. Teammates who barely know each other audition for roster spots side by side, often opting for circus shots instead of smart passes to try and stand out. The talent isn’t the same nor is the coaching. And the often sloppy play alludes to all of that.

Still, it’s hard not to come away impressed with the play of Furkan Korkmaz, the Turkish shooting guard/forward the Philadelphia 76ers selected 26th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft.

After bouncing between the Delaware 87ers (now the Blue Coats) of the NBA G League and the Sixers last season, Korkmaz likely has his sights set on a full-time role with the Sixers this coming year.

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Korkmaz kicked off Summer League play with a 40 point performance against the Boston Celtics and continued his heroics this past weekend, helping the Sixers upset the Milwaukee Bucks by dropping eight points in the final minutes of play for a 91-89 come-from-behind victory. Korkmaz even paced the Sixers with 18 points in their elimination loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

So can a confident, improved Korkmaz crack the rotation this coming season for the Sixers?

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A lot of that depends on whether or not the Sixers are done making moves. Korkmaz is a 6-foot-7 knockdown shooter who plays both small forward and shooting guard. Should the Sixers make a deal for Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler, two players who can play both those positions as well, Korkmaz would have his work cut out for him, especially when you consider how many minutes those players would demand.

Let’s assume the Sixers don’t make a move for Leonard or Butler, let’s say the star-hunting is on hold until next off-season, where does that leave Korkmaz?

In all likelihood, he’ll find himself in a competition with other young players for minutes coming off the bench.

When you look at the small forward position next season, you have Robert Covington as the presumed starter, backed up by the newly acquired Wilson Chandler. Covington and Chandler give the Sixers a strong defensive presence on the wing, as both are active defenders with imposing size, attributes Brett Brown clearly prizes. Covington earned a spot on the NBA’s first team All-Defensive last year for his lockdown D, and Chandler has the size to guard multiple positions, including opposing power forwards. Korkmaz, while 6-foot-7, is slender and has had his share of struggles on the defensive end. He’s also not as quick and athletic as those two.

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Speaking of athletic…

Then there’s rookie Zhaire Smith. Smith is the definition of raw, but his upside is tantalizing.

Smith’s athleticism left jaws all over the floor in the Thomas & Mack Center, as he skied for dunks and converted improbable baskets around the rim. Still, he often disappeared from games for long stretches, as he was often defeated by screens defensively and took ill-advised shots somewhat frequently. He’s clearly a work in progress. The question to whether Korkmaz sees playing time next year might be whether or not Brett Brown wants to throw Smith out there and live with some growing pains.

While Korkmaz isn’t a defensive presence like Covington, Chandler and, most likely, Smith, he is a smart offensive player. He possesses great court vision, impressive basketball IQ and can hit long-range shots.  He routinely made smart plays during Summer League. With a guy like Marco Belinelli now a member of the San Antonio Spurs, Brett Brown may want a shooter like Furkan on the bench.

Those skills translate to the shooting guard position as well, something Brett Brown should consider this coming season. J.J. Redick is back and will most likely start, and then there are Justin Anderson, T.J. McConnell, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who will also be fighting for minutes. Smith could too, assuming Brown wants to try him at shooting guard, as could Markelle Fultz, depending on how he’s used this coming season.

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Should Brett Brown opt to play Korkmaz at the two next year, it’s possible he leapfrogs Luwawu-Cabarrot in the pecking order and maybe steals minutes from other players, especially now that he’s found his NBA shot.