76ers

Hard to make sense of Elton Brand's first NBA draft as Sixers' GM

Hard to make sense of Elton Brand's first NBA draft as Sixers' GM

CAMDEN, N.J. — It’s tough to know what to make of Elton Brand’s first draft as the Sixers’ GM.

An optimist may applaud his boldness in seeing a player he liked in Matisse Thybulle and doing what he needed to do to get that player. 

A pessimist may say that Brand tipped his hand with Thybulle and Danny Ainge did what Danny Ainge does and took advantage of Brand’s anxiousness to acquire the defensive-minded wing.

There had been rumors swirling that a team had “promised” Thybulle, which is why the 22-year-old left the combine early and didn’t conduct any pre-draft workouts. Whether it was through deductive reasoning or sniffing out the Sixers’ interest, it appeared the Celtics knew what Brand was up to and were able to squeeze a second-round pick out of the situation.

Thybulle certainly said nothing to quell the idea that his new team made him a promise.

“I actually didn’t work out for anyone,” Thybulle said. “Like I said before, Philly showed interest early and we just trusted them, decided that we were going to put our faith in them and just shut things down and see what happens on draft night. They stayed true to their word and the rest is history.”

Yep, that sure sounds like a promise.

Brand was asked about it two different ways and didn’t deny it.

“His representation, Aaron Goodwin, decided [to not workout for teams],” Brand said. “Whatever they want to do, they knew that we had a lot of interest because I needed a player like that.”

Thybulle is an excellent prospect. He was the NCAA Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. He wreaked havoc and racked up gaudy steal and block numbers. If he can hit threes closer to the mark in his first three years in college (37.9 percent) as opposed to his last season (30.5 percent), he’s a perfect fit here. He’s not the type of player who needs the ball in his hands. He can fill a role next to star players as a 3-and-D wing.

But the issue is not the player, who will now be unfairly judged in part by the results of the entire trade. The issue is Ainge clearly knew the Sixers wanted Thybulle and made them fork over a second-round pick for him. The Celtics then went ahead and drafted sharpshooter Carsen Edwards from Purdue at pick No. 33 — a player that also appeared to check off a lot of boxes for Brand’s description of the kind of player he was looking for. 

Selling away picks in general was a peculiar move by Brand. He had just mentioned on Tuesday that his team needed to add talent for not just now, but two years from now. The second round is an opportunity to add young talent on non-guaranteed contracts. Wouldn’t you think a team like the Sixers would be looking for all the young, cheap players it can find?

The biggest head-scratcher was trading Jonathon Simmons — who was only guaranteed $1 million this season — along with pick No. 42 to Washington for cash considerations. There appeared to be more useful players in that range. Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield, who the Wizards took at 42, is a tough and experienced player that can hit threes. Nebraska’s Isaiah Roby is more of a project, but the Sixers brought him in for a pre-draft workout and he has some intriguing tools.

Brand basically said he wants financial flexibility and there simply isn’t enough room on this team’s roster for too many young players.

“For the Jonathon Simmons [trade], it’s about cap space,” Brand said. “We can put them into the [traded player exception], now we have an extra million dollars that we can use during free agency and I feel like I’m going to need every dollar. Things like that. Picks are worth a certain amount and for us, I don’t think we can add them. Like I said, I don’t think, I know we can’t add five young players to this established team — 50-plus wins two years in a row, a few bounces away from going to overtime and maybe the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond. Five young players wouldn’t have worked for that.”

It’s impossible to truly judge a draft the night of, but Brand’s first time running the show will certainly face heavy scrutiny.

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Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

There came a point Friday night during Furkan Korkmaz’s career-best 24-point performance when everyone at Wells Fargo Center seemed to collectively shrug and say, “Sure. Why not?”

Korkmaz had already flashed his trademark skill, hitting four three-pointers in under two minutes during a sudden blaze at the end of the third quarter.

With a little less than seven minutes to go in the Sixers’ 100-89 win, he stared down Bulls center Cristiano Felicio. The 22-year-old then crossed Felicio over, blew past him, dunked and let out an exultant scream. 

“At that time of the game, I was really feeling it,” Korkmaz said. “I got that confidence. When I saw the open lane, I just took off. I was also not expecting that, but I just dunked it. That was a good moment.”

Korkmaz wasn’t done, though. He missed a well-earned heat check on the Sixers’ next possession, but dropped in a floater shortly after. And, just to confirm that it was indeed his night, he took a charge on Bulls star Zach LaVine. 

Which play did he enjoy more?

“It’s a tough question, but I think I would say the dunk,” Korkmaz said honestly.

This isn’t the first time Korkmaz has changed a game this season with his shotmaking. He had nine key fourth-quarter points Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, blew up the Bucks’ zone in the third quarter on Christmas and made the game-winning three on Nov. 2 in Portland.

The Sixers declined Korkmaz’s third-year option last year, then let him sit on the free-agent market until July 25. Though they billed him as a young, promising player, their actions suggested Korkmaz was not a prominent part of their plans. He appeared to be on the fringe of the rotation.

Brett Brown hasn’t passed up many chances to laud Korkmaz, and he had a great opportunity Friday.

It’s really quite a — to say it's incredible would be too dramatic — but it's a heck of a story, isn't it? Just where he was and where he is. For us to see him — and he's young, can't forget his birth certificate — for us to see him come in and do JJ [Redick]-like stuff and have that type of a bomber, that was different. … We ran probably, I don't know, five plays in a row going to him. 

“I had flashbacks of JJ. We jumped into JJ's package and he changed the game. He gave us a spark and whether it was a three ball — I don't remember JJ dunking like that … but the long shot and just like bam, bam, bam — quick points, buckets — fueled our defense.

While Korkmaz deserves credit for translating his hypothetical value as a shooter into real contributions this year — he’s made 71 threes, tied with Tobias Harris for most on the team, and converted 39 percent — he will probably not maintain Friday's euphoric high. 

He’s devoted time and energy to improving his defense, but the question of whether he’ll be able to hold his own in the playoffs remains open and valid. If he’s not sinking shots, his impact tends to not be positive. Any moves the Sixers make before the Feb. 6 trade deadline could shift his role, too.

But, for the time being, he is playing with an apparently limitless self-belief.

“As a player you just need to get that confidence,” he said. “When you start to feel good on the court and also your teammates see that, your coaching staff sees that — I think today everybody saw that I was feeling it — and I knew that I had to shoot those looks. I just take the open shots, that’s all I do.”

Brown is clearly relishing in Korkmaz’s success.

“He's quality people,” Brown said. “He's a genuine person and you're proud of that, too. Good things happen to good people ... He's put in the time and to his credit, he came in and changed the landscape of an NBA game. And he did it quite emphatically. It wasn't like it was swept under the carpet. He did it where ESPN and all of us and his teammates, probably more importantly, felt his success.”

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Furkan Korkmaz, Al Horford building a budding bromance

Furkan Korkmaz, Al Horford building a budding bromance

Sometimes, new teammates just seem to click. For one reason or another, guys gravitate towards one another.

For the Sixers, a budding bromance seems to be brewing between veteran Al Horford and youngster Furkan Korkmaz.

After Korkmaz had a monster game, scoring a career-high 24 points in the Sixers’ win over the Bulls Friday, Horford couldn’t help but gush over the Turkish wing.

He’s just great,” Horford said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters postgame. “He continues to get better, his confidence continues to grow. He’s a guy that’s a big piece for us. He’s figuring it out and as the season goes on, you can just see the improvement.

Then he took to Twitter to show even more love.

To which Korkmaz endearingly responded.

The play in the picture was this dunk off a drive which got Korkmaz to 22 points.

This isn’t the first time the pair have shown a kinship. After Korkmaz hit a few big shots on Christmas day against the Bucks, Horford was effusive in his praise. And when Korkmaz hit the game-winner in Portland, he credited the 33-year-old Horford.

I knew that Al (Horford) was going to set a good pick and try to get me open to make the shot. … I was wide open. I just let it fly, and I made it. That was also a huge comeback from double digits (down). Horford, I think, made a lot of shots.

While their bromance is alive and well, Ben Simmons also took to Twitter to celebrate his teammate’s big night.

Tobias Harris also retweeted that post.

Safe to say, the Sixers are pretty Furkan happy right now.

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