Philadelphia 76ers: Glenn Robinson III should start at small forward

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

If the Philadelphia 76ers opt to bring Al Horford off the bench moving forward, Glenn Robinson III should replace him in the starting five, not Furkan Korkmaz.

For the first time this season, the Philadelphia 76ers opted to start a game with Al Horford coming off the bench.

While the move shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as fans have been clamoring for a starting five shakeup since about a month into the season, it is historically significant, as Horford has started every game he’s appeared in since his rookie campaign back in 2007-08.

But for the most part, it worked.

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With Tobias Harris slotted in at the four, and one less big body in the paint, the 76ers’ starting five looked surprisingly functional – a rare sight as fans in our fair city will happily attest.

However, one player who was not a benefactor of this shift in ideology, oddly enough, was the NBA’s hottest shooter Furkan Korkmaz.

After putting together the two best games of his career, Korkmaz earned a nod in Brett Brown‘s starting five alongside Harris, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Josh Richardson. Tasked with playing a hybrid two/three wing role opposite the Los Angeles Clippers‘ typical sixth man Lou Williams, Korkmaz had a very quiet evening, going 0-4 from the field through the first three quarters, and 0-5 on the game in 23 minutes of action.

Call it an off night, a natural return to earth after two massive contests, or the logical results of running a five-guard rotation, but in a game where the Sixers starting five looked surprisingly fluid, Korkmaz’s shooting woes were a lone blemish on an otherwise wonderful night.

Do you know who else noticed Korkmaz’s ill-fitting, um, fit in the starting five? None other than Brett Brown, who opted to start off the second half with Glenn Robinson III on the court at small forward, and rotate Korkmaz in off the bench.

*Spoiler alert* it went really, really well.

Coming out of the half down all tied up at 54, GRIII and the starters outpaced the Clippers 13-3, and pushed the game’s momentum fully into the Sixers’ court.

Did Robinson take over the game? No, he actually didn’t score a point in the third quarter, but his ability to defend on the wings, switch onto any player on the court sans center, and rim run alongside Simmons and Richardson adds a whole new facet to the Sixers’ system that no other player on the roster possesses. Is Korkmaz a better shooter? Yup. Is Matisse Thybulle a better defender? Probably so, but GRIII is the most complete of the three right now, and slots in the most effortlessly as a fifth starter.

Sometimes, a fifth starter doesn’t have to be a team’s fifth-best player, but the player who fits best alongside the other four.

Not only that but sometimes, some players are just better suited coming off the bench. Lou-Will, for example, scored a solid 13 points against the team that drafted him 45th overall back in 2005 in a rare start, but that’s a far cry from his typical 19.3 points of action a night. In the five games so far this season where Korkmaz has scored 20 or more points, the 22-year-old Istanbul-native averaged 28.8 minutes of action a night, yet he only earned one start. If Korkmaz is indeed Coach Brown’s Philly appropriation of Manu Ginobili, utilizing him as a change-piece coming off the bench makes a ton of sense.

The same goes for Robinson’s former Warriors teammate Alec Burks, who played very well as a second unit 6-foot-6 point guard. If the 76ers need to put their best five-man lineup on the court for, say, five minutes of overtime ball then yeah, Burks would look really, really good sharing a starting five with Richardson, Harris, Simmons, and Embiid, but again, his best fit may be paired up with Korkmaz, Thybulle, and Horford as a beyond potent second unit.

Barring a return of Horford as a starter, that really just leaves GRIII as the team’s most logical fifth starter, by process of elimination.

Next. Joel Embiid has spoiled Philly fans. dark

By changing things up and moving Al Horford to the bench, Brett Brown found a way to electrify his team on their last game before the All-Star break. While it wasn’t always perfect and involved some mid-game shake-ups to work out the kinks, the Philadelphia 76ers stumbled on something special with Glenn Robinson III slotted in between Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris at small forward. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d give that lineup another look when the Brooklyn Nets come to town on 2/20.