From Zero to Hero: The rise of Sixers’ newest star Furkan Korkmaz


“Despite appearing to be a solid player at times, Furkan Korkmaz is consistently proving to be a liability for the Philadelphia 76ers” -David Esser, Dec. 4th

I personally wrote that back in early December, in an article titled “It’s Time for the Furkan Korkmaz Experiment to End”. Needless to say, I was very, VERY wrong when it came to the “Turkish ‘Bombah’” himself.

For the most part, heading into the 2019/2020 NBA season, I actually felt like I had a pretty good read on the Sixers roster. In my preseason article: “Seven ‘way too early’ Sixers team awards”, I nailed it on the head with some of my predictions looking back on it now.

I saw Ben Simmons being the team’s best defender, Matisse Thybulle being a fan favorite, James Ennis losing his spot in the rotation, and Shake Milton proving his worth.

However, the one player I quite obviously did not have a good read on was 22-year old Furkan Korkmaz. In 53 games with the Sixers this year Korkmaz is averaging a career-high 9.7ppg while shooting 39.8% from three. He’s established himself as the team’s true “sixth man” heading into the All-Star break.

Korkmaz didn’t have a typical path to the NBA, in fact, it was riddled with roadblocks. Drafted in 2016 during the infamous “Colangelo era” of Philly basketball, Korkmaz didn’t actually make his NBA debut until the following year. 

Korkmaz spent the 2016 season in his home country of Turkey, dominating the Turkish Super League (Turkey’s main basketball league). He won multiple trophies and awards during that year, both with his team and on a personal level.

Korkmaz officially joined the Sixers in July of 2017. During the 2017/2018 season, he bounced back in forth between the main roster and the G-League. He averaged 15.4ppg through 9 games down in Delaware.

The following season is when disaster truly struck for the young Turkish guard. After battling for a spot in the rotation through the first couple months of the season, Korkmaz tore his meniscus in early February. Korkmaz would undergo surgery and effectively miss the rest of the 2018/2019 season (outside of random garbage time minutes).

This was a huge stunt in Korkmaz’ developmental journey. With a big-time roster overhaul coming in the off-season, it became pretty clear that Korkmaz was not a part of the Sixers’ future plans. After having his team option declined by Elton Brand and the 76ers, Korkmaz hit the open market as a free agent.

There were no rumors, no workouts, and no contract offers. Korkmaz generated zero offers as an NBA free agent. After battling for two years, it appeared Korkmaz’ dream of being an NBA player was finished. With the initial free agent frenzy coming to a close, Korkmaz announced he would be returning to Turkey to continue playing basketball there.

However, late in July, the Sixers reached out to their former first-round draft pick one last time. After missing out on Kyle Korver, the Sixers were grasping at straws for some extra shooting. Philly offered him a two-year league minimum contract and Korkmaz happily accepted.

Entering into the 2019/2020 season, no one expected anything from the backup guard. Personally, I thought he would be a complete non-factor, a guy who would keep the bench warm throughout the season. However, Brett Brown had other plans.

Early in the season, Brett talked about his desire to “grow a bomber”, and it appeared Korkmaz would be the first candidate. Averaging 21+ minutes while also starting in 11 games this year, Brett hasn’t been shy in utilizing him often.

Simply put, Korkmaz has been incredible this season. His development and growth in just one off-season are unparalleled. He looks stronger and faster, more confident with the ball, better defensively, and overall a far better scorer. His eFG% ranks second on the team, only behind All-Star point guard Ben Simmons.

Korkmaz has scored 65 points over the last two games and thrust himself into the national spotlight. However, this isn’t the first time he’s been an effective scorer for Philly. Prior to the game against Memphis, Korkmaz had scored in double figures 18 times. He also hit a ridiculous game-winner in a 129-128 victory vs Portland earlier in the season.

Korkmaz can score and he knows it. His willingness to shoot the basketball while also having the ability to drive hard is a breath of fresh air for a team that’s looked lost on offense for most of the season.

Above all else, Korkmaz is a hard worker. His dedication to his craft and his desire to get better is a huge reason he’s where he is right now. After essentially being told he wasn’t good enough no less than 8 months ago, Korkmaz has proved every single doubter wrong, including me. At just 22 years old, the sky’s the limit for the Philadelphia sharpshooter.