Furkan Korkmaz in Denver?

Furkan Korkmaz is just 18 years of age, but he has already displayed offensive gifts impressive enough to label him a future NBA starter.  The 6’8” guard from Turkey was a standout in the 2015 Under-19 European championships despite being a year younger than much of the competition at the time.  He also won gold with the Turkish squad during the 2014 Under-18 tournament.

Korkmaz has already distinguished himself with his shot.  In a Turkish league that rarely plays youngsters, he managed to hit 41.8% of his three-pointers over two seasons.  Korkmaz played for Anadolu Efes Istanbul.  In 2015, Anadolu Efes won the Turkish National Cup for the tenth time which is the most in league history.  Korkmaz could be headed for Denver, especially if he falls as far as the Nuggets’ second selection of the first round at #15 overall.

Korkmaz is explosive off the dribble and already an excellent finisher at the rim.  In fact, he won a dunk contest in which he jumped over a table before his slam.  He will certainly need to bulk up from his current weight of 180 pounds, but he’s not short on athleticism.  During a tournament semifinal game against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Korkmaz scored 20 points thanks to 5-7 shooting from behind the arc.  Perhaps even more inspiring, he had 6 steals and made 7 assists.  Korkmaz will need to polish his defense to keep NBA guards in check, but the steals are a sign of his high activity level on both sides of the ball.

Korkmaz has high hopes for the future and told reporters, “I want to be a lottery pick.”  It’s a real possibility as several NBA scouts have been impressed just watching him during pregame warmups.  Franchises would also have the option of letting him develop in Europe for another season, something the Nuggets did with Nikola Jokic, drafting him in 2014 and keeping him in Europe until this past season.

It’s not a stretch to say Korkmaz has the best stroke in the entire draft, an asset which translated to the NBA immediately in the case of Kristaps Porzingis.  Korkmaz doesn’t play the same position or promise to have that kind of impact, but it’s a skill set that’s hard to dismiss.  He has a smooth, quick release even under duress.  The crossovers and pump fakes Korkmaz employs almost seem unfair when considering his lethal shot.

Defenses are forced to adapt when Korkmaz is on the floor.  When Anadolu Efes forward Dario Saric was double teamed, he knew where to find his teammate Korkmaz for the easy three.  When Korkmaz does have the ball, he can be a magician.  In a contest against Ankara, he managed to execute a full spin at the top of the circle.  With his own man out of the play, Korkmaz headed to the hoop where he contorted his body in midair to elude a help defender and hit the layup.  As far as the international stage goes, his reverse dunk against Australia is likely to be used as highlight reel material on draft night.  Korkmaz is also adept at exploiting pick-and-roll sets whether he’s setting up for a shot or making the initial pass.

Despite his offensive upside, Korkmaz doesn’t get to the free throw line very often.  While capable of driving, he prefers to shoot from the outside or score on the fast break.  He has good instincts for picking off passes but struggles against guards or small forwards who post up.  Scouts have also noticed that he can be slow to help on defense and needs to be more tenacious against quality competition.  Korkmaz is a decent jumper but not elite, and he may have to adjust a bit to the playmaking style in the NBA.  He’ll also need to prove that he can create his own shot in addition to spotting up.

Korkmaz isn’t a perfect player, but it’s telling that he earned the trust of his club’s coach Dusan Ivkovic.  In a recent interview, Korkmaz acknowledged his growing fame in Turkey and discussed his willingness to improve.  He also mentioned his friendship with Saric, who could make the jump to the NBA this fall but may have financial incentive to stay in Europe for another season.  The Magic traded the draft rights to Saric in a 2014 deal with Philadelphia.

Korkmaz has shown obvious signs of development over the past couple of seasons, which suggests that he can continue to improve at the highest level.  Korkmaz is worth the risk of selection in the middle of the first round.  That appears particularly true for the Nuggets, who currently have three first rounders and two more choices in the second round.  Not only will he be one of the youngest players in the draft, but Korkmaz has also experienced real professional competition in Europe.


photo via llananba