The Sixers will be looking to trim their lineup down ahead of their playoffs and Furkan Korkmaz appears on the cusp. Does he make the cut?
It feels as if it has been forever since Furkan Korkmaz was drafted by the Sixers with the 26th pick in 2016. The 6’7” small forward has been through a lot with the organization, and, outside of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Furkan Korkmaz is the longest-tenured member of the Sixers roster.
Now in his fourth season with the Sixers, Furkan has begun to become comfortable in his role with the team. The Turkish sniper had the best season of his career last year, where he averaged 9.8 points and shot 40.2% from beyond the three-point arc.
Doc Rivers spoke highly of his expectations for Furkan right from the beginning of this season. Despite some early struggles, the Turk has found his stride in the Sixers recent games. Coming off back-to-back 20 point performances, Korkmaz has made his case why he belongs in the Sixers postseason plans.
Korkmaz was given a chance for extra minutes this weekend due to Danny Green and Tobias Harris each taking a rest day on Saturday against the Thunder. Furkan took advantage of the opportunity and scored 20 points, and a career-high 5 steals in 31 minutes of play.
While he has always been known for his shooting ability, Furkan recently spoke about how much effort he has put into the defensive side of his game. Following the victory over the Mavericks, Furk credited his emphasis on scouting his opponents for his increased defensive effectiveness. He also spoke on how the jump defensively was the toughest part of his NBA transition and put it that, “Defensively, I just started to learn the game more. I’ve been here long enough to learn the game… it takes a lot of time, it’s a totally different game.” He spoke more specifically about this and referenced how you must be able to guard guys in one-on-one situations, which was a change for him.
Is Korkmaz Good Enough To Crack The Sixers Playoff Rotation?
With under twenty games left to go in the regular season, Doc Rivers will soon begin to shape the bench rotation into what he thinks will maximize postseason success. When playing all together this season, the Sixers starters have a record of 19-4, which is the best winning percentage for any starting unit in the league. These five players are certain to take up the bulk of the minutes for the Sixers, and Rivers will look towards the bench to maintain their standards when giving them a rest.
The first name off the bench will be Shake Milton. The 24-year-old has successfully filled the sixth man role all season and has started to really find his stride in recent games. On the season as a whole, Shake has averaged 13.7 points, 3 assists, and 2.3 assists in 24 minutes per game.
The Sixers have still yet to see George Hill in action this season, but this was certainly a move made with playoff minutes in mind. The 34-year-old veteran has played in 127 career playoff games and averages 11.1 points per game in his career. He is a pure point guard who is expected to unlock even more of Shake Milton’s scoring ability and fill time with the second unit.
Like it or not, Dwight Howard will be a part of the playoff rotation. While the gloves may come off some regarding the minutes of Joel Embiid, Howard will be looked at to fill the majority of the minutes at center when Embiid takes a rest. If he can keep his head on straight and cut out the NBA leading 14 technicals and 4 flagrant fouls, he could be a valuable contributor to the Sixers. The good and the bad will both have to be swallowed with Dwight, but he is still arguably the best backup option to Embiid that the Sixers have had going into the playoffs.
Beyond this is where Furkan will have a chance to scrap for minutes. Matisse Thybulle has proved impactful enough on the defensive end to earn some guaranteed minutes, especially considering the matchup with the Brooklyn Nets that seems destined to occur. While the competition for minutes seemed to be between these two for quite some time, Furkan and Matisse have each carved out interesting roles providing different benefits to the Sixers lineup.
Furkan will likely be looked at as a tool that Doc Rivers can break out when the team is in need of an offensive spark. His defense has improved drastically from the liability that he used to be, but Furkan is still miles behind Matisse Thybulle in this regard. The unconscious desire to shoot and willingness to pull the trigger given an inch of space is something that no one else on the Sixers roster truly possesses. This will always be the biggest lure to getting him into the game and is a characteristic that can help the team.
A nine-man rotation is traditionally looked at as rather large for a playoff rotation, which is concerning for the hopes of seeing Furkan have a role. However, Doc Rivers has repeatedly talked about how there is not a set number that he has in mind for the playoff rotation. He even spoke earlier in the year about playing with a ten-man rotation for regular-season games.
As the regular season prepares to come to a close, the bench minutes will inevitably get squeezed. Furkan appears to be right on the edge of this cutoff and will be a name to watch closely as the season winds down. For what it’s worth, several of his Sixers teammates have spoken highly about what Furkan brings to the team. Most recently, Ben Simmons gave credit to Furkan’s growth in the pick-and-roll game as well as improved ball-handling and spoke highly about sharing the court with Korkmaz.
There are few players who go from looking atrocious to looking like they can’t miss a shot in the way that Furkan Korkmaz does. His consistency has improved some, but the 23-year-old is still far from a finished product. Whether his time to shine comes in this playoffs is still to be determined, but Korkmaz is an unexpected piece of the Sixers roster that could end up paying dividends.