Philadelphia 76ers: Furkan Korkmaz has to replace Georges Niang

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

In case you haven’t noticed, mere weeks after the Philadelphia 76ers were hit with a brutal string of injuries and illness, the NBA has been hit harder by COVID-19, with dozens of players, plural, out for the foreseeable future.

While, gracefully, the Sixers have largely been spared from this wave of misfortune, the team logged their first new entrant on the list since Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle were cleared to resume play late last month, with Georges Niang removed from the active roster until he meets the association’s criteria to return.

Unfortunate? Most definitely. It stinks to see any player either come into contact with a positive person or get sick themselves, but in this, the third season of COVID-influenced basketball, it is the unfortunate world we live in.

So what can the 76ers do to replace Niang on the court? Well, after an ice-cold month of November that has unfortunately crept into December like the unusually warm weather, now would be the best time for Furkan Korkmaz to heat the heck up and provide value to the Sixers as a do-it-all offensive weapon.

… just kidding. The Philadelphia 76ers need to give more minutes to Isaiah Joe.

The Philadelphia 76ers need to embrace “Joetime” basketball.

Through the first two-ish months of the 2021-22 NBA season, Isaiah Joe has appeared in 16 games with one start and averaged 9.9 minutes in each of those contests.

Largely called upon to play when the team was down a number of would-be performers either due to illness, COVID, or a combination of the two, Joe has only played into double-digits eight times, including one game where he played 23 minutes versus eight other contests where he averaged just over five minutes a night.

Has Joe done anything in any of these games to get on Doc Rivers’ bad side? I mean, he’s turned the ball over… six times, but other than a few blown defensive assignments and a poor 3 point shooting percentage – on only 41 attempts – there’s really not too much to write home about in relation to the pride of Arkansas because he just hasn’t played enough minutes to make a real assessment one way or another.

So now, with Georges Niang out for the next 10-14 days, give or take, why not expand out that sample size and see how things shake out?

Okay, okay, before you type that Joe can’t play power forward, hear me out; what are Niang’s top responsibilities on the court? Shooting 3s and providing some attitude. While only time will tell if Joe has a mean streak, he can moreso handle the former, as that’s the very reason why Daryl Morey gave him a draft day guarantee a little over one year ago.

In college, Joe took an average of 9.1 3 point shots per game, including an insane 10.6 3s per game during his final season in Fayetteville. While Joe didn’t do much else offensively, as 75 percent of his shots in any given game came from beyond the arc, he supplemented his shooting with 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 rebounds a game as a sophomore, which would both be incredibly useful on a Sixers team that currently ranks 30th overall in boards per game (more on that here).

Like Joe, Niang also takes 60-plus percent of his shots in any given game from beyond the arc and takes less than two shots per game between five and 19 feet away from the basket. Offensively, the duo could easily be swapped in one-for-one as around the arc floor spacers, even if the team would lose a few inches and darn near 70 pounds – literally, look it up – by playing Joe in Niang’s spot.

Alright, cool; while positions still matter in the modern-day NBA, if you aren’t an on-ball ISO scorer, the difference between a 6-foot-4 wing and a 6-foot-10 wing mostly comes down to who guards them, but when you flip the court around, how would Joe fit in place of Niang? Surely the Sixers couldn’t expect their lightest player to take on opposing power forwards, which Niang does for roughly 18.6 of his 23.6 minutes of on-court action a night, right?

Well, that, my friends, is where Matisse Thybulle comes in.

As you can read about here, the Sixers lineup with the best net rating so far this season is the starters, but with Thybulle playing in place of Danny Green. This look, which has only been deployed in one game all season, puts both of the Sixers’ top perimeter defenders on the court together and has given the team an opportunity to excel both against teams with multiple good scorers and teams that only have one but send screen after screen after screen to put them in ISO situations on Seth Curry.

Even if Joe isn’t as talented on the defensive end of the court as Green, he provides similar utility as a floor spacer and thus can benefit from playing alongside Thybulle defensively – either in the Green or Curry role – while providing the spacing needed to make up for his teammate’s shaky shot.

Against a team with size, a frontcourt of Joe, Thybulle, and either Joel Embiid or Andre Drummond puts a lot of pressure on the center spot, but only two of the Sixers’ remaining opponents of the 2021 calendar year are particularly “big” – the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks – so that isn’t quite as big of an issue if the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Knicks, and the Denver Nuggets were just over the horizon.

Next. Play Matisse Thybulle and Danny Green together, Philadelphia 76ers. dark

Who knows, maybe Furkan Korkmaz will magically break his funk and come alive in a big way for the Philadelphia 76ers. Maybe his $4.6 million contract will look like a bargain once more, his 3 point shooting average will start with a four instead of a two, and things will be right as rain once more. But just in case that doesn’t happen, Isaiah Joe should probably get his shooting sleeves ready, as the Sixers could really use a fearless sharpshooter who will let double-digit attempts fly without batting an eye.