Sixers looking to (finally) find success with foreign-born players

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Through their history, the 76ers don’t have the greatest track record with foreign players.

Actually, it’s pretty poor.

Before looking back at some missteps, let’s give the Sixers credit for leaping forward and selecting two foreign players at Nos. 24 and 26 in the recently-held NBA Draft. They took 21-year-old French forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot at No. 24.

Then they surprised many by drafting Turkish shooting guard Furkan Korkmaz at No. 26. Korkmaz is a teammate of former Sixers first-round pick Dario Saric, who could join the organization this season.

“It’s a global game,” Sixers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo told reporters. “NBA teams have kind of scoured the globe, pulled a lot of players out of Europe, Eastern Europe, different parts of the world. It just shows you how the game has grown, how the game itself is being taught better in other parts of the world.”

It’s refreshing to hear the current regime discuss the global impact of basketball. The Sixers have clearly been behind the rest of the league in terms of identifying players and then selecting or acquiring them. Sure, they’ve done their due diligence with scouting, but the results haven’t been evident here like they’ve been throughout the league.

Whether Luwawu-Cabarrot and Korkmaz develop is anybody’s guess, but for the Sixers to take both players with first round picks at least shows that the potential is there. It’s worth the risk. And it could pay off in a big way.

Going back to 1998, the Sixers drafted Larry Hughes from Saint Louis with the No. 8 overall pick.

No. 9?

Well, that was a player named Dirk Nowitzki, who was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and traded to the Dallas Mavericks, That pick worked out pretty well, huh?

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Then in the 2000 draft, the Sixers held the No. 20 overall selection. There was a player named Hedo Turkoglu from Istanbul, Turkey, on the board. Turkoglu, who turned into a solid NBA player, was plucked by the Sacramento Kings at No. 16. At No. 20, the Sixers took Hofstra guard Speedy Claxton.

In ’02, the Sixers drafted Jiri Welsch of the Czech Republic with the No. 16 overall pick. Not a good move.

There have been other foreign players taken by the Sixers such as Petteri Koponen and Kyrylo Fesenko. Not exactly Hall of Famers.

Oh, and there’s Efthimios Rentzias, who was a standout in Greece and a former first-round pick of the Denver Nuggets. The Sixers acquired him in ’02 and he played all of 35 games. Then he was history.

None of this is an exact science. But the past is murky.

Give Colangelo credit for enhancing the European scouting department and changing direction with regards to the draft. He’s right – it is a global game. The Sixers will be better off in the long run.

“We have a very extensive scouting staff,” Colangelo told reporters. “We had a good pulse and a good feel for all of them. That’s why we had so much intel on Timothe as well as Furkan. It helps when you’ve got the right people doing the right things in terms of that scouting process.

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