A total of 12 Turkish players have featured in the NBA over the last couple of decades, with Mirsad Turkcan being the very first in 1999. While Hedo Turkoglu tallied by far the most regular season and postseason appearances (997/109), Mehmet Okur is often remembered as the pinnacle of Turkish NBA players, with the 38th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft winning the NBA Championship in 2004 with the Detroit Pistons. Okur also went on to become an NBA All-Star in 2007.
There are currently four active Turkish players in the NBA, but only three have a chance of winning the NBA Championship in 2020. Due to the NBA’s 22-team seeding round before going into the usual playoffs schedule, the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers won’t be competing again this season, which rules out Cedi Osman. That leaves Enes Kanter of the Boston Celtics, Ersan Ilyasova of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Furkan Korkmaz of the Philadelphia 76ers to compete for a place alongside the legendary Okur as a Turkish NBA champion.
Furkan Korkmaz: The Young Underdog
Selected 26th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, Furkan Korkmaz is the youngest of the league’s current Turkish corps. The shooting guard/small forward developed by Anadolu Efes has featured for the Philadelphia 76ers since the 2017/18 season, gradually growing his influence and getting more game time. This season, he clocked in a 9.7 points per game average in 64 games – 12 of which were game starts.
From the Turkish basketball stars still competing for the NBA’s crown, Korkmaz is the only one to not be on a team that clinched a place in the playoffs before the break. While Korkmaz and the 76ers have a chance to better their seeding going into the first round, it seems the young Istanbul-native is a long shot at hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy this year.
Ersan Ilyasova: The Seasoned Favourite
The veteran of the group and the latest pick of their respective drafts, Ersan Ilyasova was taken 36th overall way back in the 2005 NBA Draft, but now the 33-year-old is in with the best chance of joining the ranks of Mehmet Okur. Having been originally drafted by the Bucks, the Eskisehir-native bounced around the league and back to Europe for years before returning to Milwaukee in 2018.
Now, the 2005 Turkish Cup champion and 2009 Spanish League champion looks set to become a 2020 NBA champion. Alongside superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, Ilyasova is favored by the experts of the top-rated Turkish betting sites , as the Bucks and the LA laker are the clear favorites. Ilyasova has the best chance of winning the NBA Championship.
Enes Kanter: The Star Dark Horse
Enes Kanter was brought into the NBA with superstar expectations thrust upon him from day one, being selected as the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. Picked by the Utah Jazz, he’s since played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, and Portland Trail Blazers. To commence this season, he signed for the Boston Celtics as a free agent, leading the team in the regular season with 7.7 rebounds per game after 51 games.
The Celtics have been in the championship conversation for the last few years, and are once again a dark horse to claim the title. The biggest obstacle for Kanter’s club is the Bucks and fellow Turkish player Ilyasova. Kanter claims that Boston’s tight-knit group puts the team in a great place to succeed this season, with fellow stars Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward certainly helping to set the team as leading outsiders.
While Furkan Korkmaz has youth and Enes Kanter has absolute star power, it’s veteran Ersan Ilyasova who has the greatest chance to emulate Mehmet Okur and double the number of Turkish NBA champions.