Philadelphia 76ers to trade or not to trade: Furkan Korkmaz

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Is there a player on the Philadelphia 76ers more gobsmackingly polarizing than Furkan Korkmaz?

To some, Furkie is a solid sharpshooter off the bench with good size and the upside to keep getting better as he enters his NBA prime, whereas others wouldn’t shed a single tear – to put it kindly – if he never dons a red, white, blue, and occasionally black jersey ever again, as his streaky shooting just doesn’t have a place in a playoff rotation.

In one game, Korkmaz will look like a serious player, like when he drained a 3 with .4 seconds left to play against the Milwaukee Bucks to force overtime. But then he’ll settle into a particularly brutal stretch of ice-cold outside shooting where he attempts to overcompensate with some unnecessary drive to the hoop, and some have to wonder how he survived in South Philly this far.

This sort of “you’re hot, and you’re cold, you’re yes, and you’re no” style of play keeps coaches coming back to Korkmaz when they need a spark while simultaneously sending him to the bench in favor of similarly talented wings who maybe won’t take so many odd shots.

So, what gives? Is there a spot in the Philadelphia 76ers’ present- let alone future – for the somehow-still-only-23-year-old shooter, or would he be better off finding a home elsewhere with less pressure to perform on a one seed?

To trade or not to trade Furkan Korkmaz; that is the Philadelphia 76ers’ question.

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Through the first 30 games of the 2020-21 NBA season, Furkan Korkmaz is averaging 9.1 points, 1.1 assists, and 2.1 rebounds, all the while knocking down 37.7 percent of his 4.6 shots per game from beyond the arc.

Korkmaz has a Real Plus/Minus of 0.04 (44th among SGs), a total RAPTOR rating of +0.2, and has a positive two-man net rating when paired up with everyone except for Terrence Furgeson, Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, and Dwight Howard, according to the NBA’s advanced stats.

Is Korkmaz just scratching the surface of being a liable top-8 NBA player following two largely meh seasons from 2017-19? Could he replace Danny Green in the starting five should the three-time NBA champ be traded in the next week, or would the Sixers be better off shipping Korkmaz to a team like the Rockets, Cavaliers, or Kings who could give him a more expansive role with unrestricted free agency hanging just over the horizon?

Because the Sixers signed Korkmaz to a two-year contract worth using the vet minimum after declining his option for the 2018-19 season, the team can only extend him at a similar number due to a lack of Bird Rights. While it’s possible Korkmaz could experience another light market and return to the team on another short-term, vet-minimum contract, all it takes is one team with cap space to mess up Daryl Morey’s plans and steal away the former first-round pick’s services on a deal worth close to the $14.8 million AAV projected by FiveThirtyEight.

Sidebar: Between you and me, I can’t really see any team giving Korkmaz a deal worth $60 over four years in this NBA economy, but I could see some team offering him a long-term deal in the same ballpark as Lou Williams, Derrick Rose, or Doug McDermott.

So, assuming the chances of retaining Korkmaz should he close out the season on a high note are rather low, and the chances of him making Doc Rivers’ playoff rotation without finishing out the season on a high note are low too, why not see if the team can unload their former draftee in a deal that nets them a better overall player in both the short and long-term?

Because Korkmaz is only under contract for $1.76 million in 2020-21, it’s incredibly easy to wedge him into virtually any trade available over the next month without having to fret too much about the matching salary. The Sixers could package him alongside Green and Mike Scott to take a shot at Kyle Lowry – who isn’t technically on the market, but you never know – in a deal alongside Vincent Poirier and Terrance Ferguson for Lonzo Ball, or even in a smaller one-for-one trade to acquire a player like Danuel House depending on how the trade market shakes out (subscription required).

For a team like the Sixers who could pull off deals involving anything from multiple first-round picks to simple player-for-player flips, having a young, high-upside shooter that they can’t afford to retain in free agency is a valuable asset that could help to swing a potential move in the team’s favor one way or another. That value, assuming the team capitalizes on it, may ultimately prove more, well, valuable than the sporadic production Korkmaz provides on the court on average and could land the Sixers the type of player they desperately crave, whether that’s a point guard, a 3 point shooting ace, or a stretch big coming off the bench.

If the final chapter of Korkmaz’s career in Philly is as a footnote in a championship-chasing trade, that feels rather fitting, no?

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Could the Philadelphia 76ers ultimately end up keeping Furkan Korkmaz heading into April? Most definitely. Korkmaz is still good for the occasional 3 point buzzer beater with .4 seconds left on the clock, and on a team with as little outside firepower as Doc Rivers’ current crew, that skill is incredibly valuable. But if the Sixers ultimately do choose to be buyers at the deadline, it’s hard not to imagine any potential trade partner(s)  asking for Korkmaz’s inclusion in a deal for a win-now contributor, as his upside and relative youth fits a lot better on a playoff-less seller than a team in the middle of a “championship or bust” window.