Boston Celtics

5 Sixers summer league observations: Furkan Korkmaz erupts for 40 points in loss

5 Sixers summer league observations: Furkan Korkmaz erupts for 40 points in loss

Friday night marked the start of summer league for the Sixers, but Furkan Korkmaz looked ready for 2018-19 opening night.

However, he was the only one to thoroughly impress during the team's MGM Resorts NBA Summer League opener in Las Vegas, as the Sixers fell to the Celtics, 95-89, at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Korkmaz went off for a game-high 40 points with Sixers head coach Brett Brown watching in attendance. Still, it wasn't enough as the Sixers suffered costly defensive breakdowns, proving incapable of holding a four-point lead with a little over three minutes left in regulation.

The Celtics closed the game on a 14-4 run to hand the Sixers the loss. The Sixers are back it Saturday when they face the Lakers at 11:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Let's get into five observations from Friday's action:

1. Korkmaz put on a show and certainly looked the part of an NBA player.

The 2016 draft's 26th overall pick went 8 for 14 from three-point range and lived at the charity stripe, going 12 of 15. The 6-foot 7 shooting guard, who also grabbed six rebounds, made a variety of deep and difficult trifectas. 

He drained a step-back three to give the Sixers a 78-75 lead with 5:48 left and sank a similar one at 3:53 to push the advantage to 84-80.

Korkmaz had a craftiness to his game and drew fouls with numerous head fakes. He looked strong on dribble handoffs and going off the bounce, as well.

The native of Turkey turns 21 years old later this month. This performance had to feel good after a Lisfranc injury to his left foot last season limited him to just 24 total games (15 with the Sixers and nine in the G League).

2. Jonah Bolden was active and bouncy, attacking missed shots for athletic rebounds while running the floor well.

The Sixers' 2017 second-round pick totaled six points, six rebounds and a block in 23 minutes. He shot 2 of 6 from the free throw line and 0 for 2 from deep after shooting poorly in those areas during 29 EuroLeague games. The 6-foot-10, 220-pound power forward shot 31.9 percent from three and 51.2 percent from the line last season.

"Coming from UCLA going to my first year professionally was a big difference," Bolden said last month at the Sixers' practice facility. "Coming from the American style of play to the European style was also a big difference — the physicality, the speed of the game kind of slowed down. IQ level was a lot higher. There was an adjustment phase. Once I got through that, it was kind of a smooth ride."

Bolden wants to play for the Sixers in 2018-19. He'll have more summer league time to prove himself and try to convince management the time is now.

3. Zhaire Smith showed flashes but had a mostly quiet night.

The 16th overall pick in the draft last month was a minus-21 in 29 minutes while posting seven points and two assists. The 6-foot-5 guard attempted one three-pointer in which he missed but did not commit a turnover.

During the second quarter, he exhibited his athletic ability when fellow 2018 pick Landry Shamet found him on a cut to the basket for a layup.

Less than a minute later, Smith took a steal the other way and found Shamet in the corner for a three-pointer.

4. Speaking of Shamet, who was taken 26th overall by the Sixers, he did not play in the second half after leaving with a right ankle sprain.

He played some point guard off the bench and hit a pair of three-pointers in 12 minutes before exiting and not returning.

In his final season at Wichita State, the 6-foot-4 guard hit 84 treys and shot it at a 44.2 percent clip from bonus territory. Shamet is hoping he won't be sidelined for long so he can display that skill to the Sixers.

“I was recruited as a two, which people forget about, so I honestly feel confident playing either guard spot,” Shamet said a day after the draft. “And even being a point guard, I don’t have to have the ball in my hands. I understand Ben [Simmons] is a guy that’s good at creating space, having the ball, playmaking. Getting to play with him, he’s going to make my life a lot easier finding me and being a willing passer, making plays. That’s exciting for sure. But I have confidence I can play off the ball, I honestly feel that’s a strength of mine.”

5. Take away Korkmaz's impressive 8-for-14 showing from deep and the Sixers shot 5 for 23 (21.7 percent) behind the arc. They'll need to offer more help to Korkmaz, who single-handedly kept the Sixers in the game and nearly won it for them.

Saint Joseph's product Isaiah Miles was the team's only other double-figure scorer, checking in with 11 points and eight rebounds.

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Sixers will find plenty of challengers in attempt to take over Eastern Conference

Sixers will find plenty of challengers in attempt to take over Eastern Conference

“Run it back.”

After striking out on the big fish in free agency, the Sixers essentially appear to be going this route for next season.

They have reportedly agreed to a one-year deal to bring back JJ Redick and a trade for Denver Nuggets swingman Wilson Chandler to help offset the departures of bench standouts Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. A little juggling to add a reserve center, and you will be looking at your 2018-19 Philadelphia 76ers (barring a blockbuster deal for Kawhi Leonard, in which case all bets are off).

And there’s no reason to believe that won’t be enough to take another leap next season. Think about it, from a personal standpoint the Sixers had Joel Embiid be named a starter in the All-Star Game and finish as the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. Despite all of the noise, Ben Simmons snagged Rookie of the Year in a landslide. Plus, the team had Robert Covington (first) and Embiid (second) each be named to All-NBA defensive teams.

All of those individual accolades helped propel the team to a 52-win campaign (24 more than the previous season), a playoff berth for the first time in six seasons and a first-round series victory.

With that level of production under their belt, there is no reason to believe the Sixers won’t continue climbing up the Eastern Conference ranks.

Just don’t think it will be easy.

Even with LeBron James’ exodus to the West, the Sixers’ path to the NBA Finals won’t all of the sudden become a cakewalk. Some other squads will have a say about that, starting at the top.

Toronto may have ditched its head coach, but the Raptors appear to be sticking with the core that won a franchise-record 59 games last season. That group beat the Sixers in three of the four regular-season meetings by an average of 18.3 points.

Of course, the Boston Celtics had the Sixers’ number all season long. Between the preseason, regular season and playoffs, the C’s won nine of the 11 matchups by an average of 9.2 points. Plus, you’ve likely heard they’ll be getting a couple All-Stars back in the lineup come next season in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

Even the teams a step below have reason for hope. The Indiana Pacers have faith in their own young core led by Most Improved Player Victor Oladipo. The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the game’s best players in Giannis Antetokounmpo and boosted their bench by swiping Ilyasova from the Sixers and drafting Villanova standout Donte DiVincenzo. The Washington Wizards (John Wall, Bradley Beal) and Detroit Pistons (Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond) have prolific tandems that could cause trouble for anyone.

It’s all wide open in the East now that the King’s throne has shifted to Hollywood. And the Sixers have to feel as good as any team about being able to secure the crown, but it definitely won’t be an easy task.

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Sixers' Ben Simmons win NBA's Rookie of the Year award

Sixers' Ben Simmons win NBA's Rookie of the Year award

The debate can finally be put to rest. Ben Simmons is a rookie, and he has the hardware to prove it.

Simmons was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year during the league’s annual awards show on Monday night. Simmons beat out Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Boston’s Jayson Tatum for the award.

“Wow. I’d like to thank my family to start off with. Family, friends, you know I wouldn’t be here without them,” Simmons said. “My teammates, of course, and my great coach. The city of Philadelphia for really embracing me and my family. Thank you.”

Simmons became the third Sixer to ever to receive the honor after Michael Carter-Williams (2013-14) and Allen Iverson (1996-97). He also became the first Australian to win the award in what turned out to be a landslide. Simmons received 90 of 101 first-place votes while Mitchell took the other 11. Simmons added 10 second-place votes and one third-place vote for 481 total points. That was far and beyond Mitchell's 323 total points and Tatum's 101.

Much to the chagrin of Jazz fans everywhere.

After sitting out last season with a broken foot, Simmons took the league by storm in 2017-18. The phenom averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals during the regular season. He also racked up 12 triple-doubles, second only to Oscar Robertson for a player in his rookie season.

“I am proud of the fact that two of the past five Rookies of the Year have come from our program’s development efforts, which are the bloodline of our culture,” Sixers head coach and interim general manager Brett Brown said in a statement. “Ben Simmons is so much an example of this fact. He had been a college four-man and transitioned into the NBA as a point guard; that, in itself, is an amazing story. This positional change and added responsibility only confirms how exciting his future is as a multi-dimensional player. His character and his talents will be a building block of our championship quest for many, many years. I am so proud to share in his award and so proud of his teammates for also helping him achieve this recognition.”

Simmons’ production was never in question throughout the season, but his standing as a rookie was a hot topic of debate. 

Pundits asked whether Simmons should be considered a rookie since he had the benefit of working and learning in the Sixers’ program during his lost 2016-17 season. 

Even Mitchell, who garnered the NBA players’ association Leader of the New School Award for top rookie, got in on the act. He openly said Simmons shouldn’t be considered a rookie and even went so far as wearing a hoodie with the definition of the word written across the chest (the definition actually helped Simmons’ case, stating it referenced someone “playing” in their first season).

Mitchell doubled down on that sentiment with his choice of vehicle for the NBA awards show.

To his credit, Simmons never let the noise get to him. The point guard simply went about his business to help the Sixers post a 24-win increase from a season ago and reach the playoffs for the first time in six season.

“If his argument is that I’m not a rookie, if that’s the only argument he has, I’m in pretty good shape,” Simmons said in April. “There’s a rule in the NBA for a reason. I’m not going to wear a sweatshirt tomorrow though.”

No need. Simmons can just glance at his trophy case now for validation.

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