November 16, 2018, 3:42 pm
Hello Hoop Ballers and welcome back to our International Spotlight weekly feature where we will be taking a look at Turkish shooting guard Furkman Kormaz and whether he deserves a spot in the Sixers rotation after last week’s blockbuster trade that brought Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia.
Furk was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey before becoming the 26th overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft by Bryan Colangelo. He previously made a name for himself at the FIBA U-16 European Championship in 2013 where he led the tournament in scoring at 25.3 points per game. One year later he played in the FIBA U-18 European Championship, establishing himself as a key part of the Turkish team that won the gold medal. Next year, he was a part of the 2015 FIBA U-19 World Championship in Greece where he was voted to the all-tournament team and helped his team earn the bronze medal by beating Greece on their home court.
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Before moving to US he spent time with one of the traditional powerhouses of Turkey, Anadolu Efes, and another Turkish team, Banvit Basketbol Kulubu, but his numbers in Europe have never been eye-popping. Anadolu Efes, though, still had to pay $250,000 USD in order to acquire his rights at the age of 15 as he was considered a major talent at the European level.
Korkmaz spent the 2017-18 NBA season as a two-way player for the Sixers, playing for the Delaware 87ers in the G- League where he averaged 15.4 points 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 31.9 minutes across nine games. He shot an abysmal 19.4 percent from behind the arc, mainly due to a lack of playing time as he was recovering from a Lisfranc injury in his left foot that forced him to miss 43 games.
Summer 2018: Everything Clicks
Korkmaz was admittedly unprepared for last year’s summer action when he flew directly from Europe to Salt Lake City, signing his contract on July 4 and then starting for his team the following night. The Sixers played two more games in Utah before traveling to Las Vegas in order to participate in the NBA Summer League where he was passive and unsure of himself while trying to fit in with the summer squad.
“I was like really new here,” Kurkmaz said. “I didn’t know no one. I didn’t know how I should play here.”
A seldom-used rookie, appearing in just 14 games, Korkmaz appeared to be a completely different player in Las Vegas this year, averaging a team-leading 16.7 points to go with 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steal while turning heads with a 40-point performance against the Celtics.
During the summer, the Turkish national team battled in the 2019 FIBA European Qualifiers where Korkmaz emerged as a leader and a dependable scorer while bringing the team’s record to an impressive 6-2 record in the tournament, leading his squad in scoring with 20.0 points and 4.5 free throws made per game in the Qualifiers.
Coming into the preseason, the Sixers traded away the two guys with whom he would’ve competed for minutes (Justin Anderson and Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot) and he had another positive outing, averaging 10.0 points in four games while shooting 8-of-15 from long range. He showed the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket instead of just launching shots from deep, and the expectation was for him to get some rotation minutes.
A Natural Scorer
Standing at 6’7”, Furk has the perfect size for the position and can be easily described as a natural scorer who has almost everything in the offensive dimension of his game, rarely struggling to create a scoring option for himself. Just look at him using his lateral quickness and faking a drive to the basket, forcing Josh Richardson, one of the top defenders in the game, to lose him for a moment as he easily drains the open three. His stroke is pretty smooth and has a high release that makes it impossible to guard – especially by opposing guards that are usually shorter than him.
A capable sharpshooter who has been able to maintain a high percentage from behind the arc (41.1 percent for his career in Europe), Furk almost never shies away from shooting the ball and has top-tier scoring option potential as he is not simply a catch-and-shoot player – he can finish around the basket, from the mid-range or from deep with an array of moves thanks to his excellent footwork. Here is Korkmaz recognizing the lack of rim protection by the Magic and finishing with the nice floater as Mo Bamba is keeping an eye on Joel Embiid, stationed on the perimeter.
Korkmaz’s height gives him a nice advantage all over the court as he often finds himself matched up with slower and shorter opponents playing on the perimeter, while he is is sneaky fast and athletic for his size, causing defenses to underestimate him. His athleticism is surprisingly one step above his peers while his agility and jumping skills allow him to attack the rim where he is capable of creating contact and earning fouls. Obviously this is something that he needs to work on more at the NBA level but throughout his career he has been relentless at attacking the rim and he hasn’t shown any signs of not doing the same with the Sixers.
Here is another example of a good defender (Rodney McGruder) who fails to recognize Furk’s quickness and ability to put he ball on the floor as the young guard blows past him for the easy layup. I know it’s hard but please try to concentrate on the play and not the awesome Miami Vice court that has me reminiscing about the 80’s!
Even though Korkmaz is just 21 years old, he has been coached by some of the top basketball minds in Europe and that can be seen in different aspects of his game – especially his ball-handling skills and the the ability to pass effectively without committing silly turnovers. Just like Luka Doncic, he was playing in the Euroleague at only 18 years old and his coaches have never hesitated to put the ball in his hands whenever they needed to manufacture offense.
Furk is at the point where he already understands the game very well and has solid fundamentals that made scouts fall in love with his game. He enjoys taking the ball coast to coast and is always aggressive, looking to either penetrate or find the right passing channels that lead to easy buckets. Look at him with the fancy pass to Markelle Fultz that leads to a successful fast break opportunity for the Sixers.
Defensively: Lacks Consistency but has the Tools
The Sixers were able to acquire All-Star Jimmy Butler last week but the much needed addition came at the cost of two very important rotation players in Robert Covington and Dario Saric, leaving the team very thin at the forward positions. The team’s need to space the floor around their non-shooting young star (Ben Simmons) became even more apparent, forcing the coaching staff to give heavy backup minutes to Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet and Korkmaz. The major problem, though, is that all of them are defensive liabilities and Brett Brown’s patience is going to be seriously challenged in the next few weeks while Wilson Chandler is not 100% ready to play starter minutes.
Furk has quick and long hands that helped him rack up nice steal numbers in FIBA junior tournaments and although this hasn’t translated in the NBA so far we have started to see some glimpses of it in recent games where he is getting serious rotation minutes. The following possession is such a beauty. Furk first totally surprises Josh Richardson, intercepting his pass with his arms and then jumping to move the ball and play the nice give-and-go with Ben Simmons which leads to an easy layup. And how about that bounce pass right? #FreeFurkTheTurk
Korkmaz has been able to add some much needed muscle on his body in the last couple years and opponents won’t be able to effectively post up against him, especially given the combination of size and length. He has the ability to effectively close out on shooters and his long body usually make it hard for opponents to blow past him. Look at him getting isolated against Terrence Ross, who settles for a mid-range shot after he’s unable to create separation or drive to the rim. Ross makes the tough shot but coaches are usually fine forcing this kind of shot selection.
The Sixers are still hesitant to trust him apparently and the biggest problem so far for Korkmaz has been the ability to remain focused on the defensive end while avoiding breakdowns that lead to easy points for opponents. Look at him badly missing Wayne Ellington on a very easy defensive switch where he just fails to keep his eyes on the defender and goes for the unsuccessful deflection. By the way, Brett Brown immediately subbed him out after this play even though he was playing very well on the other end of the floor.
Furk is a smart kid though, and he’s very aware of the things he needs to correct and this has been clear while communicating with the press as he slowly works on improving his game. When asked what he thought he showed to the coaching staff and the front office during the summer, Korkmaz said, “I think maybe what I can do, offensively. But I feel like sometimes I show really good things on the defense. Sometimes I lost my concentration, but I have to be more consistent.”
Brett Brown Setting the Bar High
Through all of the embarrassing losing streaks and miserable seasons, Brett Brown always saw the big picture and he actually thinks quite differently from most conventional head coaches out there. This explains how he was able to endure a four-year stretch of terrible basketball and even more bad breaks, and keep coming back for more. And when he gathered his players for the first time in training camp this year he stated how the Sixers need to take the next step and become the best team in the East. “I think to walk into a locker room and not declare that to be a season goal at the start of the season is not how I’m wired. You would get different people within our organization that sort of advised me not to go there and I wanted to. I wanted to own it.”
Korkmaz had trouble getting on the court at the beginning of the season which led to his representatives requesting a trade, as he really wants to play at every opportunity and believes he has earned the right to do so. It’s important to understand his limitations though, as this kind of attitude likely won’t be tolerated by Brown and the Sixers even though the team is still high on him. Here is what the coach had to say about Furkan after his recent emergence: “Furk is not a shy player. He goes into the game and chases the chance to shoot, trying to shoot. I think he did very good things. We’re always pushing him to defend. But when you look at the birth certificate, you see how young he is.”
Although the young gun has recently put a series of impressive performances on display, it’s unclear how Jimmy Butler will affect his development. During the Sixers’ loss in Memphis, Korkmaz tallied 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting, including 3-for-7 from beyond the arc, to go along with four rebounds and a couple assists and steals. On Monday night, during a 124-114 road win in Miami, he followed that up with a new career-high in points with 16 on 5-for-9 shooting, hitting 3-for-6 from 3-point range while he was on the court to close the game.
The politics of the franchise will also dictate if he remains with the Sixers long term. His name has been involved in trade rumors for Kyle Korver since he was a Colangelo pick and the team declined to pick up his third-year option, something that they will likely regret. As for now, they are in need of guys that can hit shots, and while Korkmaz may be a liability on defense more often than not, if he can provide the long-ball consistently, he deserves more minutes.
Thank you for reading and please don’ t hesitate to let us know about an international prospect that you would want to learn more about in the next few weeks. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @philysstar and stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.
Stats are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of November 16th.