Philadelphia 76ers: Shake Milton deserves minutes over Furkan Korkmaz

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

While the Philadelphia 76ers’ decision to play Furkan Korkmaz is a worthy endeavor, it shouldn’t come at the expense of Shake Milton’s development.

Two games, two wins, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ 2019-20 season is off to the furious start.

Though the two games have gone vastly different for the boys in (red, white, and) blue, as Game 1 relied heavily on the team’s super-sized starting five, and the second was essentially the Tobias Harris show

But quite possibly the most surprising development of the first two wins has to be Brett Brown‘s rotation and bench utilization.

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Outside of clear sixth man Matisse Thybulle, who actually started against the Detroit Pistons in place of Joel Embiid (weird, right?), Brown appears notably flexible as to whom he will play when from game to game.

On opening night, the team almost exclusively relied on their starting five for the brunt of the game, with four players – Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, James Ennis, and Mike Scott – rotating in as reserves. While the final scorecard shows that 12 players logged at least a minute in the game, the 76ers made the unconventional decision to not deploy a single backup point guard or center until deep into the second half.

Apparently, that trend would last all of one game.

Fast forward to a late-week Detroit road trip and Brown’s philosophy shifted once more, with both Raul Neto and Shake Milton taking on more substantial roles with promising results.

Deploying an all-reserve lineup at multiple times during the contest, the Sixers backups kept the team in the game and actually scored a season-high 42 points en route to a 117-111 win.

And the surprise star of this backup berth? Mike Scott.

Wait, that’s not right. Scott’s 17-point performance shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as he was retained at roughly $4.4 million a year to serve as the team’s primary reserve. No, the big, surprise performance of the evening has to belong to Shake Milton – a player who wasn’t even an active part of opening night’s rotation.

In 12 minutes of action, Milton scored 10 points on seven shots from the field. While those numbers are impressive, they look even more so when you consider that Milton knocked down two of his four 3 point attempts on the evening.

For a team in desperate need of outside shooting of any kind, those numbers are encouraging.

What wasn’t encouraging, however, was the performance of Furkan Korkmaz in his second game as a major piece of Brown’s rotation. While Korkmaz’s minutes took a notable dip from 17 against Boston to 10 against the Pistons – in large part because he amassed three personal fouls in the blink of an eye – his production dived bombed even further – all the way to zero, zip, nada.

Alright, technically that isn’t true, as Korkmaz did log a pair of turnovers, a block and three missed shots from 3 point range to go with his three aforementioned turnovers, but those stats aren’t exactly something to write home about.

Again, I know this is a limited sample size, and things could look considerably different with as little as one more game’s worth of statistics, but why on earth is Korkmaz earning minutes above Milton?

Sure, the Turkish prospect is a few inches taller, a few years older, and a higher draft pick than Milton, but he’s also playing on a one-year, veteran minimum contract versus the four-year, $7 million extension handed out to SMU‘s finest after completing his rookie season on a two-way deal.

Outside of showcasing Korkmaz for potential suitors in the lead up to his contract becoming tradeable in December, I really can’t see a reason this should be the case.

Next. Tobias Harris is a really good dude. dark

With defensive versatility, an impressively effortless outside shot, and the ability to soak up minutes as a backup/secondary ball-handler when need be, Shake Milton is the kind of player team’s typically covet on their second units as a developmental prospect who can contribute in a defined role. While his promising showing against the Detroit Pistons may elicit a desire to get him more minutes, especially after watching Furkan Kormaz falter, the Philadelphia 76ers have to ride the hot hand regardless of the composition of their starting five if they want to remain front-runners in a wide-open Eastern Conference.