The Sixers have two current All-Stars, a five-time All-Star and a player on a five-year, $180 million contract.
Their leading scorer in wins over the Grizzlies and Bulls this weekend was Furkan Korkmaz.
Last season, the Sixers decided not to exercise Korkmaz’s third-year option, which seemed to indicate his time in Philadelphia was likely over. The team ended up giving him their penultimate roster spot, signing him in mid-July to a two-year minimum deal with only the first year guaranteed.
Head coach Brett Brown gave Korkmaz opportunities in preseason, stuck with him through occasional shooting slumps and defensive struggles and now … this.
I don’t know if vindication is the word,” Brown said. “What I do know is it’s a hell of a story. It really is. … I think his time overseas during the summer playing for the Turkish national team, where he featured a lot, I think that propelled him into coming back and he really put his hand up quite quickly in preseason, and us paying attention. The fact that we don’t have an abundance of veteran wings that were locked into a spot also helped, where it was a competitive situation. … It’s been a timely relationship that he’s certainly taken advantage of.
To try to put what Korkmaz is doing into perspective, we figured a few stats might be helpful:
• Before this weekend, Korkmaz had played 113 regular-season NBA games and never scored more than 24 points in a game. He put up 34 Friday and 31 Sunday, shooting a combined 25 of 34 (73.5 percent).
• Korkmaz is shooting 46.6 percent from three-point range at home. That’s fifth in the NBA among players who have attempted at least 100 home threes, behind only Nemanja Bjelica, Duncan Robinson, Terence Davis and JJ Redick. He’s just a 33.1 percent three-point shooter on the road.
• If the season ended today, the Turkish wing’s 39.8 percent three-point mark would be fourth-best in franchise history for players 22 years old or younger. Hersey Hawkins (42.8), Landry Shamet (40.4) and Hollis Thompson (40.1) are the three players above him. Kyle Korver shot 39.1 percent from three as a rookie in the 2003-04 season.
• Korkmaz’s 105 made threes are the most on the Sixers this season.
• Fifty-one NBA players have made 100 or more threes in 2019-20. Only three have a smaller salary than Korkmaz’s $1.62 million (Devonte’ Graham, Duncan Robinson and Dillon Brooks).
Several times early this year, Brown declared, “I want to grow a bomber” and insisted that Korkmaz might be that player.
Korkmaz said Sunday night that he’d been aware of those comments.
“After I heard that, when Coach said it, I started to also feel like it’s my strong point — shooting,” he said. “Why not improve it? All my teammates are looking for me. It’s not just about me getting the shots up and making the shots. … Today, Ben [Simmons], Joel [Embiid], others, everybody was trying to set screens, get me open.
“Mike [Scott] was super funny today. Whenever we ran something as a play, he was just coming and setting the screen for me. It was like whatever the play, he was just coming for me: ‘Furk, go up, go up! Get shots up! Get shots up!’ This is really good, when you get confidence from your teammates. That’s really special."