By Bill Gorman, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer
When the groups for the 2019 FIBA World Cup were announced, many assumed that the USA, placed in a group with Japan, the Czech Republic and Turkey, would dominate with little problem and move on to the round of 16.
No one mentioned this to Turkey when they played the USA team on September 3. Turkey used a stifling zone defense to shut down the Americans in the 2nd half, only to fall victim to poor free-throw shooting at the end of regulation to fall 93-92. Earlier, the Turkish team had handled the Japanese with a 86-67 win in their opener. Unfortunately for the Turks, they were eliminated from championship contention after dropping their group-stage finale to the Czech Republic 91-76.
Philadelphia 76ers guard/forward Furkan Korkmaz was a key piece in the near-upset against the US, scoring 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting (3-of-6 from 3-point range, which will be his calling card in Philadelphia). For the three group stage games, the 22-year old put up a slash line of 14.0/3.7/1.7 on 48.5% shooting (42.9% from three) while playing 26.6 minutes per night.
As one of the main bench pieces for Turkey, Korkmaz showed some of the playmaking and shooting skills he flashed that enticed the 76ers to draft him in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft. His ability to stretch the floor as someone who is both good at shooting off screens as well as being a catch-and-shoot threat could prove to be critical for a team that will need as many good shooters as it can get. If Korkmaz can build on his World Cup performance, it could be a springboard to push him past James Ennis III, Matisse Thybulle and Zhaire Smith in the competition for minutes on the wing off the bench.