PHOENIX – Very few people can honestly say they could have foreseen Furkan Korkmaz’s current role with the 76ers -- not even the third-year reserve swingman.
How could he?
Korkmaz rarely played at the start of last season. The team declined to pick up the third-year option on the player it drafted 26th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft. And he requested to be traded out of Philadelphia.
Yet, these days he’s blossoming into a dependable, sharpshooting reserve.
One who made 10-of-21 three-point shots in the last three games. One who made the game-winning three-pointer with 0.4 seconds left in Saturday’s road victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
“For me, it’s a different feeling,” said Korkmaz, who finished with a career-high 20 points while making 4 of 7 three-pointers in Monday’s 114-109 road loss to the Phoenix Suns. “There have been ups and downs in my career. Now it’s really good to see the fans, the organization, everybody, they are behind me.”
The Turkish player refers to his heroics as big moments for his life -- not just his career. That’s because he believes those moments could become career changers, which would have an impact on his life.
“Right now, I’m happy to be in this situation,” said Korkmaz, who made his first start of the season Monday night.
Korkmaz was averaging career highs of 6.6 points and 16 minutes heading into the Suns game. He’s logged more than 19 minutes in three of the five games. He had 17 points while making 3-of-8 three-pointers and 4-of-5 foul shots in Wednesday’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Korkmaz followed that up with 11 points while making 3-of-6 three-pointers on a night that concluded with his first NBA game-winner on Saturday. He also blocked two shots.
But Korkmaz was basically a Sixers bystander this time a year ago and requested a trade because he wasn’t playing.
He never got his wish, but he never appeared to be a part of the team’s future. The Sixers declined to pick up his $2.03 million option on Oct. 31, 2018 as a way to save money in salary-cap room and have an extra roster spot for free agents.
At that time, he was behind guard Landry Shamet on the team’s depth chart. He also was expected to be behind reserve guard Jerryd Bayless (left knee) once Bayless was scheduled to return from injuries.
Trades eventually sent Bayless to Minnesota and Shamet to the Los Angeles Clippers, which created more playing time for Korkmaz.
And in July, he signed a two-year deal with the Sixers in July largely because they finally provided him the best opportunity to shine. The team was in need of a sharpshooting replacement for JJ Redick, who signed with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Looking at the Sixers’ roster, Korkmaz felt he would be given a chance to do that in a reserve role. The Turkish player is starting to make the most of those opportunities, and he’s putting out more effort on the defensive end.
But the 22-year-old, who turned down overseas opportunities in favor of staying with the Sixers, always felt he could contribute on the NBA level if given an opportunity.
His teammates are commending him for sticking with his goal and staying ready for his opportunity.
“To his credit, he has stayed professional,” Al Horford said. “He’s stayed prepared. When his number was called, he’s answered this year.”