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Sixers’ Furkan Korkmaz shining with increased minutes

Furkan Korkmaz has made the most since and increase minutes since the trade for Jimmy Butler. Korkmaz had a career high of 18 points and seven rebounds in Monday’s 116-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Furkan Korkmaz is making the most of new role.
Furkan Korkmaz is making the most of new role.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Back in October, Furkan Korkmaz was an end-of-the-bench reserve looking to be traded by the 76ers. On Wednesday, the second-year swingman was in good spirits while making his first career start.

Korkmaz started against the Brooklyn Nets in place of Jimmy Butler, who missed the game with a sprained groin. He finished with a career-high-tying 18 points and a career-high six assists in the 127-124 loss at the Wells Fargo Center.

Despite that, it’s no secret that Korkmaz isn’t exactly in the team’s long-term plans.

The Sixers declined to exercise the third-year team option of his deal. As a result, the 6-foot-7, 185-pounder will become a free agent on July 1.

The Sixers might come to regret that decision. Korkmaz had career highs of 18 points and seven rebounds in a reserve role in Monday’s 116-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons. He made 4 of 7 three-pointers in the game.

“Things are changing really quickly here,” Korkmaz said when asked about not having his option picked up. “Right now, and for the rest of the season, for the organization, for the coaching staff, I cannot make any comment about it.

“I just have to keep working and being professional. And when that opportunity comes, I just have to show that I can play.”

Ironically, the opportunity came when the Sixers had an agreement with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire that player he started in place of against Brooklyn.

Korkmaz had scored a total of six points and had seven games with ‘Did Not Play, Coaches Decision’ in the first 13 games of the season.

However, with just nine available players, the Sixers were forced to play him in Nov. 10’s 112-106 overtime loss at Memphis. The main reason for the short roster was they had agreed earlier in the day to a trade to send Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Jerryd Bayless to the Timberwolves in exchange for Butler.The Sixers also sent a 2022 pick in the deal, while the T-wolves included Justin Patton.

The trade became official on Nov. 12.

Korkmaz had 12 points and made 3 of 7 three-pointers in the setback against the Grizzlies. He followed that up with 16 points (3-for-6 three-pointers) and eight points (2-for-2) in his next two games, respectively. The Turkish player averaged 6.9 points in the 14 games played from Nov. 10 through Monday.

“I think he’s not afraid of the moment,” coach Brett Brown said of what surprised him about Korkmaz in those 14 games. “What most surprised me about him is he’s got a bounce. He got a cocky side and a swagger side that I respect.”

The 21-year-old has shown an ability to play in the pick-and-roll, come off a down screen, and throw a lob, Brown said.

The Sixers were always aware of his ability to shoot. His defense was a major reason why he was unable to get minutes before the acquisition of Butler. Korkmaz has shown improvement in that area.

“We feel that his future is going to be correlated to his body, in getting him stronger and bigger,” Brown said. “We feel that his future will be directly correlated to his ability to defend.”

However, his future most likely won’t be with the Sixers.

He will be able to negotiate a deal with any NBA team in July, because the Sixers chose not to exercise their $2.03 million third-year option. That’s all the Sixers can offer him for next season. Other teams will be able to offer more.

“Everybody was talking about my defense and saying that was my weakness,” Korkmaz said. “Last year, yeah, it was like that.

“But this year, I don’t think so. I have improved, especially on defense. This means it is coming from defense, it is not just my shooting.”