The Philadelphia 76ers have a great need for shooters yet they are severing ties with one of its best in Furkan Korkmaz after the season. What is up with that?; as the move mystifies many fans.
Hypothetically, let’s say Philadelphia 76ers general manager Elton Brand received a phone call from another team’s GM and the conversation started like this:
“Hey EB, could you use a 21-year-old kid who is the star of his country’s national team and is a 6-foot-7 deadly outside shooter; plus he can handle the ball and is an above-average passer? Oh, and he will come to you with a rock-bottom salary.”
One would think the answer from Brand would be an immediate ‘Yes’ — but apparently it is a resounding ‘No’!
That hypothetical general manager just described the attributes of Furkan Korkmaz, who the Sixers already have, but probably not for long.
Korkmaz was buried on the bench and management made it clear he was not going to be part of their future plans when it declined his option for next season. In frustration, he then asked to be traded.
However, days after they declined his option, came the Jimmy Butler trade and, combined with some untimely injuries, coach Brett Brown had no choice but to play the former No. 26 pick from the 2016 draft.
When given the chance, Korkmaz has done fairly well. He may not be the next J.J. Redick or Kyle Korver, but certainly he has shown the makings of a contributor to a paper-thin bench. The big head-scratcher is that if the 76ers had picked up his option, they would only have to pay him $2 million next year.
In the real world, $2 million is a lot of money but not in the hyper-flushed-with-cash NBA. Put it this way, Amir Johnson, on a veterans minimum contract, and Justin Patton, who has played one game in his entire NBA career, will be paid by the 76ers more than $2 million this season.
Just a brief look at his output since the Butler trade shows that the more Korkmaz plays, the better he looks.
Not to get bogged down in statistics, but the bottom line is Korkmaz has played 15 minutes or more in a game eight times this season. Inof those games was he a minus in the plus/minus category. On average he is a +8.
Whether he makes jumpers or not (and currently he’s just 28.3% from beyond the arc) Korkmaz is a threat the opposing defense must cover. He also is a pretty good ball-handler and an excellent passer, having made some impressive passes in his limited time on the court and sports a 3-to-1 assists to turnover ration.
Per 36 minutes in a game, Korkmaz averages 14.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
So what is the problem? Why do the Sixers want to bottle up ‘The Kork’.
Korkmaz can do pretty much everything — except play lockdown defense. As coach Brett Brown has said many times, the first thing he looks for in a player is defense.
Being a stringbean at 6-foot-7, 190 pounds, Korkmaz does not have the bulk to stop slashing guards nor the foot speed to keep them in front of him. His game is more about skill and basketball I.Q. than athleticism.
Brown simply thinks Korkmaz’s offensive skills do not outweigh his defensive liabilities. After three straight good performances, when asked about Korkmaz following a win in Orlando on November 14, all Brown talked about was how they were teaching Korkmaz to move his feet in practice.
When the decision was made on November 3 to decline his option, the word given was it was a matter of cap flexibility – even though the team would have been on the hook for the NBA equivalent of a pittance.
Maybe general manager Elton Brand did the official declining, but there no doubt this decision was entirely Brown’s. If the coach thought Korkmaz would be a future rotation player, the option would have been picked up, without a doubt. Korkmaz lately is back to token amounts of playing time, averaging about five minutes against Toronto and at Detroit.
In case you were wondering, if the 76ers had a change of heart can they still sign Korkmaz? Not really. They can not offer him more than the option figure once he hits free agency. There would be little doubt some team will make him a bigger offer. Remember he is just 21-years-old, far from a finished product but can already shoot, dribble and pass with good skill and has also done well in international competition.
While Brown says defense is his first priority, it is not like he has not played defensive-deficient (a technical term for human turnstile) players in the past. Remember Marco Belinelli?
Not that statistics tell the whole story, but in the NBA defensive ratings (as of 12/8), Korkmaz is rated No. 216. For reference, T.J. McConnell, who is praised for his full-court ballhawking, is lower at 238 and rookie shooting guard Landry Shamet is down at 261.
Brown has shown an affinity for Shamet, this year’s No. 26 pick in the draft, and a lot of the minutes he gets might have otherwise gone to Korkmaz. This is in no way to besmirch Shamet, who certainly is looking like a very promising player for a rookie. It is more to point out the strange disparity in playing time Brown gives out between him and Korkmaz although they are similar players, and Korkmaz even has more experience and a better defensive rating so you can not bring that up as an excuse.
Shamet has also had a couple of tough games lately but no one thinks he still won’t get plenty of playing time in the future.
If you want to get into conspiracy theories, it could be as simple as Brown, as interim GM, drafted Shamet while Bryan Colangelo was in charge when Korkmaz was selected. The other non-Ben Simmons selection from the first round of that draft, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, was shipped out this past summer after rotting on Brown’s bench for a couple of seasons.
You could say there is no point investing time in a player who, for better or worse, won’t be here next year, but the Sixers are in ‘Win Now’ mode and half the team has expiring contracts at the end of the season as well.
To outside observers, it just seems bewildering that for a team desperate for some offensive punch off the bench, Brown and the organization do not want to give Korkmaz 15-20 minutes a game.
Maybe that noted basketball expert and 17th century poet Tom Brown (just substitute Korkmaz for Dr. Fell) had it right for the Sixers management’s view:
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why – I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell