I’m not going to lie, I used to spew a lot of venom in the direction of Philadelphia 76ers fans about the play of Furkan Korkmaz.
Korkmaz, who is in his third year out of Turkey, never seemed to do anything right when I watched him in his first two seasons. I couldn’t believe this guy was getting minutes on a team that so many framed as a title contender.
He was billed as a shooter and showed the swagger of one at times, but he only connected on 32% of his attempts from three-point land in his rookie and sophomore campaigns. Defensively he didn’t show much promise either, which further contributed to my confusion over his place in the rotation.
After losing both Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick in the 2019 offseason, it only made sense that Korkmaz would assume a bigger role as the 76ers hunted internally for additional scoring and consistent range shooting. Even head coach Brett Brown acknowledged this earlier in the year after Korkmaz clocked 19 minutes in Philly’s season-opening victory over the Boston Celtics.
Brown gives a simple explanation for Korkmaz’s minutes/role tonight: “I need to grow a bomber”
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) October 24, 2019
Players like Brandon Ingram and Bam Adebayo are some of the top candidates for Most Improved Player this season, and although Korkmaz lags well behind in that category, both he and the 76ers should find solace in the fact that Brown has succeeded in his task, as Korkmaz has become one of the most improved shooters in the league.
Not only is Korkmaz fitting snugly into the role tailored for him since 2017-18, but he’s giving the bench scoring-starved 76ers (27th in second-unit scoring) a much-needed boost in terms of buckets.
Korkmaz is shooting a healthy 39% from behind the arc this season on nearly five attempts per game, way up from his below average 32% last year.
Since the start of the new year, Korkmaz is tied for fourth amongst bench players in three-pointers made with 55 but is shooting a higher percentage (42.6%) than the three players (Terrence Ross, Patty Mills, Davis Bertans) ahead of him.
Korkmaz has been dropping 12.4 points per game since 2020 kicked off, and overall on the season, he’s averaging a career-high 9.7 points a night. Both his success and confidence have been burgeoning since about mid-December, which culminated into two scoring explosions in February against the Memphis Grizzlies (career-high 34 points) and the Chicago Bulls (31 points).
If you watch Korkmaz’s three-point shooting exhibition against Memphis, you just see a guy playing with much more poise and moxie. No longer rushed and nervy, Korkmaz demonstrates a better understanding of how to scan defensive closeouts, setting up defenders to go flying by with his convincing pump-fake, only to quickly relocate and drill a triple.
That’s something we typically see executed by the top shooters in the league, and Korkmaz has begun to make it look routine.
After Korkmaz’s stellar performance against the Bulls, Brown stated that he’s never seen this level of self-assurance from the 76ers wing.
No, I haven’t,” Brown said. “The thing that I see more than what the stat sheet shows is the reason I say that. We all see him bomb away and make some emphatic, timely shots, long balls, but I see him becoming more of a better passer. You know what I’m going to say, defensive side of things, I see growth there. He’s emerged as one of our key players on a pretty good team. His confidence is certainly the highest I’ve ever coached him.”
While things (especially on the road) continue to be of the inconsistent nature for the 76ers, Korkmaz’s continued emergence as a trusty shooter will be critical for Philly as they hope to tighten up and regain their footing before the playoffs commence.
It’s being reported that star guard Ben Simmons is slated to miss some time, with an ailing back, and both Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris haven’t been super reliable from downtown.
Philly can’t afford any additional shortage on space, so they hope trade deadline acquisitions, Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, can help crack things open a little more as well as provide some scoring/playmaking, but that remains to be seen.
Philly has wrestled with offensive woes for the majority of the season, and tilting a playoff series in their favor will ultimately come down to their defense, but Furkan Korkmaz’s three-point reliability in a seven-game series will ultimately play a huge part in their overall postseason success.