Overseas Sixers shining in EuroBasket

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

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People may debate whether Joel Embiid, if healthy, is the top young big man in the league. They might also try to rank Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz among the other Rookie of the Year favorites heading into the season. But a big reason the Sixers are seen as such a rising presence in league circles is not only due to the top-end talent, but the depth, of their young roster. At the moment, that depth is on full display overseas, where Dario Saric and Furkan Korkmaz are representing their countries in the EuroBasket 2017 tournament.

Both players seemingly produced their best performances of the tournament in action Tuesday. Dario Saric and Croatia were up against Spain, who won this event back in 2015 and is widely considered the best international team in the world outside of the United States. Saric was up against true NBA talent in the Gasol brothers and Knicks center Juan Hernangomez. While Spain came away with a 79-73 victory, Croatia actually led after 3 quarters and the contest was within one point with under 30 seconds left.

More importantly for Sixers fans, Dario was arguably the best player on the floor, going off for a fat stat line of 18 points (6-14 FG, 5-6 FT), 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. It was the second game in a row where Saric recorded a double-double. Often matched up against a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year in Marc Gasol, Saric had no trouble getting his shot whenever he wanted.

https://twitter.com/sixers/status/905083196865437697

He also took a large role in facilitating the Croatian offense. There’s a short list of men 6’10” or taller on the planet who can make the kind of passes Dario Saric can make. Here, the game announcer rightly said, “that assist is as good as anything, even that [Sergio] Rodriguez has thrown.”

Despite dropping to 3-1 with the loss, Croatia is guaranteed to advance out of the group stage with one game remaining. Sixers fans unable to wait until October to see Dario back in action in a Sixers uniform are loving what they’re seeing from the young big man.

Meanwhile, Furkan Korkmaz has also been chipping in for Turkey, most recently in their 78-65 win over Belgium. Coming off the bench, Korkmaz dropped a game-high 14 points, very efficiently going 3-4 from the field and 7-7 from the foul line; he recorded a +17 plus/minus in just 20 minutes of court time.  Sixers fans have mainly considered the young Turkish guard as a spot-up shooter, but he showed plenty of off-the-dribble game on Tuesday.

Korkmaz went off for 7 points as part of a 12-0 Turkey run in the 4th quarter to break open a game that had been tied 60-60. This corner three is the sort of spot-up shot Sixers faithful envision him knocked down off of a Ben Simmons drive or Joel Embiid kick-out for years to come.

For the tournament, Korkmaz has averaged 10.8 points, shooting 60.9% from the field and 4-9 from behind the arc. The win over Belgium moved Turkey to 2-2, also clinching them a ticket to the knockout stage. With a deeper Sixers roster this season, it remains to be seen how much playing time will be available with the big club for Korkmaz. But if Furkan keeps scoring the basketball against NBA competition like we’re seen the last week or two in Europe, he’ll find his way into the regular rotation.


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