Not long ago, Marc Eversley, the 76ers' vice president of player personnel, was in Europe, checking in on Furkan Korkmaz, the third of the Sixers' three first-round picks in last year's draft. At the moment, Korkmaz remains the second-best Furkan in franchise history, behind the immortal Furkan Aldemir, who over his 41 unforgettable games for the Sixers in 2014-15 led them in beard hair and held the unique distinction of being The Player Whom Brett Brown Was Most Likely To Compare to Tiago Splitter.
But Eversley, according to general manager Bryan Colangelo, was encouraged during the visit by what he saw of Korkmaz, a wing player and outside shooter. Korkmaz had put on nine or 10 pounds of muscle, Eversley told Colangelo, and might have grown an inch or two.
"I thought it might have been the flip in his hair, but we talked about that a little bit," Colangelo said Wednesday. "He's actually really long, and he's growing. He might be 6-7, 6-8 now, and with ball skills. Good decision-maker, shotmaker, does a lot of good things. Very interesting player."
There would seem little chance, if any, that Korkmaz would come over from Turkey to join the Sixers this season.
"Physically," Colangelo said, "he's got a ways to go," and a hefty buyout remains on his contract with Anadolu Efes. So the Sixers are happy to have him stay in Europe for another year, bulk up a bit more, gain more experience, and see what happens. Besides, if they're pragmatic in their expectations for him and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, their other late-first-round selection last year, they should be satisfied if even one of them develops into a solid rotational player.
And that's fine. It's the part that people don't naturally consider when they think about The Process and this particular stage of it. All past and possibly future knee and foot injuries aside, the Sixers believe that they have two franchise cornerstones in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. No matter what Colangelo and his brain trust decide to do with the No. 3 pick in this year's draft - take the best-available player, use the pick as a chip to move up or down, use it and the Sixers' upcoming first-round picks as bait to trade for an established superstar - the goal is to add that crucial third (or maybe fourth) star player required to elevate a team into the NBA's exosphere. That's a big move, of course, but the bigger moves, the drafting of Embiid and Simmons, already have taken place.
The tricky part of the rebuilding, the less-considered part, is finding and cultivating a strong enough supporting cast around that core. That's where the realistic value of any draft picks outside the lottery, such as Luwawu-Cabarrot and Korkmaz, or any undrafted signees, lies. What does "realistic" mean? Over the 10 drafts before last year's, it means that you have a 1-in-20 chance of drafting an all-star guard with either the No. 24 or No. 26 pick (Kyle Lowry in 2006) and a less-than-50-percent chance of selecting a solid-to-excellent starter or rotation player.
It's that aspect of roster construction that the Sixers have to shore up. They found and developed two undrafted players, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell, into helpful, supplementary players - Covington as an excellent wing defender and competent offensive player, McConnell as a legitimate backup point guard. They added enough hide to Nik Stauskas that, after two awful seasons, he became a better-than-average three-point shooter and, overall, a tougher, more tenacious player last season. If Jerryd Bayless is healthy this season, he could be the kind of combo guard who, in theory, would fit alongside Simmons.
Whether any or all of those players will still be on the team if and when the Sixers join the league's elite teams - you know, like Embiid said, right around the time LeBron James starts to "slow down" - remains to be seen. But it does bode well, within reason, for Luwawu-Cabarrot, 22, and Korkmaz, 19.
After adjusting to the rigors of an NBA schedule - "You feel like you're only eating, playing, and sleeping on the plane," he said in January - Luwawu-Cabarrot averaged 13.1 points and shot 43 percent from the field over his final 17 games. That he made 85 percent of his free-throw attempts last season suggests he has a naturally fluid stroke that, as he gets stronger and gets up more shots, will allow his shooting percentages to improve over time.
Korkmaz might be closer to being a more reliable shooter in the NBA; he made 43 percent of his three-point shots last season in Europe. We'll see. They're interesting. That's all. But at some point, the Sixers will need some players to be more than intriguing prospects. They have, they believe, their superstars. They need everything else.