Life as a slow-developing first-round pick in the NBA can be tough; doubly so for late first-rounders who begin their careers with contending teams who aren’t in any rush to put them on the floor.
Such was the case for Turkish wing Furkan Korkmaz during his first two seasons for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Before he made the jump from the BSL’s Bandirma in his home country to the Association, Korkmaz had the look of a can’t-miss prospect. The kind of player who was just as likely to hit 40-plus percent of his three-point shots as he was to ride his athleticism to a dunk contest title.
For the record, he did both of those things during his time in Europe.
Did you ever see Vince Carter, Dr. J or Krypto-Nate throw down at All-Star Weekend in a Darth Vader costume? No? Well, Korkmaz did it as only a true Sith lord can.
However, he hasn’t always endeared himself to the Philly faithful since moving stateside (especially during his early days with the Sixers). More recently, though, he has shown flashes of the player many hoped he could be.
During his team’s blowout win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, Korkmaz brought the heat like never before.
In the process, the free agent to be may have given teams around the NBA reason to offer him money this summer.
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When he wasn’t on G League assignment or getting DNP-CD’d as a rookie, Korkmaz was generally underwhelming with his play. He averaged less than two points per game and shot just 29 percent from the floor in his 14 appearances with the club.
Ahead of his second season, he renewed hopes of a breakout with a 40-point Summer League effort. And while he was much improved and a bigger part of the Sixers’ process once the real games started, he still failed to make a significant impact as a sophomore.
The last two years have been different, though. He continues to have his ups and downs, of course, but he has solidified his spot in Doc Rivers’ rotation. He has been especially good as of late, connecting on better than 40 percent of his triples since February 23.
Against OKC, though, Korkmaz played what may have been the best game of his career.
With the Sixers missing two starters (and Ben Simmons being forced to play at power forward), Korkmaz got a surprise start in the game and didn’t disappoint. In 30 minutes of play, the 23-year-old put up 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, hit four triples and added four boards and five steals.
The defensive output was a welcome surprise and it combined with some slick shooting to play a key role in Philly securing the win.
After the game, Sixers coach Doc Rivers couldn’t help but give the devil his due.
“Furk made some shots, which was great,” said Rivers, via USA Today. “Moving Ben (Simmons) to the 4, I thought created some matchups for us. I thought that’s what really got Furk open because they’re trying to match a 4 on Furk a lot and they lost him in transition.
Earning His Next Deal
Korkmaz’s early inability to play up to his potential cost him dearly. In 2018, the Sixers made the surprising decision not to pick up the third-year option on his rookie-scale deal. They subsequently re-signed him to a lesser contract, but a message had clearly been sent.
His pocketbook also suffered in the process.
However, by showing significant improvement since inking his new deal, Korkmaz has given himself a shot at remaining in the league. Meanwhile, efforts like the one he put forth against the Thunder could serve to convince other clubs that he can still take additional steps developmentally and be a steady contributor at the NBA level.
Over 42 games this season, Korkmaz is putting up nine points and two rebounds per contest while hitting 37 percent of his triples. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
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