There is a silver lining for the Sixers after a week of COVID setbacks

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 25 Arkansas at Georgia Tech
ATLANTA, GA Ð NOVEMBER 25: Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe (1) reacts after the Mason Jones game winning three point shot in overtime during the NCAA basketball game between the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on November 25th, 2019 at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

The Sixers are continuing to battle against the COVID-19 virus and its impact on the NBA season. Last night’s game against the Thunder was cancelled as the team didn’t have enough players, and they spent most of last week short-handed. However, very cloud has a silver lining and the recent lack of depth has given Doc Rivers a chance to get a much better look at his wing players.

Let the Sixers wing competition commence!

Isaiah Joe

The Sixers had high long-term hopes when they selected Isaiah Joe with the 49th pick in the draft. Joe was one of the biggest volume shooters in the entire class and averaged over 10 three-point attempts per game in his final season at Arkansas. In total, he scored 16.9 points per game along with 4.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in his final season as a sophomore.

The biggest knock on Joe coming into the season was his slight frame and potential for this to limit him on defense. The 6’5 sharpshooter weighs around 180 pounds but has a 7-foot wingspan along with it. In his time in college, Joe flashed his ability to shoot off screens, create his own shot, and excels in the catch-and-shoot. There were rumors swirling that the Sixers were even considering taking Joe with the 21st pick which shows just how highly the organization thought of him. While Joe was looked at as more of a long-term project, he may be ready for a bigger role much quicker than was expected.

Furkan Korkmaz

Furkan has missed time since being diagnosed with an adductor strain after the loss to the Cleveland Cavs on December 27th. Korkmaz has been absent for the last 10 games and while he has now been cleared to return from injury, he is also dealing with personal issues that caused him to leave the team for a brief period of time. The 23-year old has drawn great praise from Doc Rivers since his tenure began in Philly, and prior to the season Rivers put it that, “I think Furkan will be a very big piece of what we do this year.”

Korkmaz has shown great growth in his young career as this is now his 4th year with the Sixers. Brett Brown talked about growing him into the team’s “bomber” last season and this manifested in the 9.8 points per game he averaged on over 40% shooting from behind the 3-point arc. Furkan clocked 18.3 minutes per game in his first 3 games this season prior to being shut down and played solid in those minutes.

Matisse Thybulle

The other main competition for wing minutes points to Sixers’ fan-favorite: Matisse Thybulle. In a lot of ways, Thybulle is the polar opposite of Furkan in terms of playstyle. The Washington product has become known for his defensive abilities as he makes great use of his 6’11 wingspan to be disruptive on that end of the floor. There is certainly a need for a “defensive stopper” on the wing position when Ben Simmons is not on the floor, but Thybulle’s offensive capabilities have shown to be extremely limited.

Despite looking lost on the offensive end for a majority of this season, ‘Tise has shown promising signs lately. In his first game back after being linked to Covid exposure, Thybulle knocked down a pair of 3-pointers against the Heat. While defense will always be his calling card, if Thybulle cannot properly space the floor it is not a stretch to see him sliding down on the depth chart sooner rather than later.

Isaiah Joe makes the most of his opportunity

After several members of the Sixers were forced to miss games due to their time in quarantine, Isaiah Joe was quickly tossed into the fire of playing real NBA minutes. With just 7 active players in the matchup against the Nuggets, Joe played 45 minutes scoring 13 points and shooting 3-11 from beyond the arc. In the next matchup against the Hawks, Isaiah scored 18 points and shot an impressive 4-7 from deep.

Joe began to really open up eyes in the next matchup against the Heat. While Joel Embiid’s 45 point performance was the main story, Joe added 13 points of his own including an extremely important 3-pointer to help push the game to overtime.

Even after most of the starters were cleared to return, Joe made sure to maintain his gunslinging attitude. In the second Miami matchup, Joe scored 12 points on 4-8 from 3 in just 19 minutes of play. Perhaps most impressively was his work on the defensive end. Joe looked especially exciting in his matchup with Tyler Herro as he seems to have grown into his body more than was the case on his college tape. If he can keep this up it drastically increases the ability of Doc Rivers to work him into the regular rotation.

Can Joe crack the Sixers rotation in the future?

The Sixers are close to returning to full strength and will begin to implement a regular rotation of players. Doc Rivers will be forced to make some tough calls for playing time in the near future and minutes at the wing position is one of the biggest areas of competition. Isaiah Joe has played well enough to put his name in the conversation for regular minutes due to his recent opportunity and expect the rotation to reflect this. As Rivers put it after the last Heat matchup, “It’s a good problem,” and “There’s never any complications when guys are playing well.”

The Sixers bench is deeper than it has been in a long time and this is one of the biggest assets the team has. Isaiah Joe has done a great job showcasing his abilities in recent games and putting himself in a position to be a long-term part of this team. However, with Furkan still easing back into play and the lack of consistent offense in Matisse Thybulle, Isaiah Joe may be on the fast track to being in the immediate rotation as well.

Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire