Which Sixers Have Exceeded Expectations by the All-Star Break This Season?

Justin Grasso

The 2020 NBA All-Star weekend has arrived. On Thursday, all participants involved in this weekend's festivities have boarded their flights to head to Chicago for one of the NBA's biggest events of the year.

While the All-Star game is a good time for NBA fans to sit back and enjoy the Rising Stars Showcase, the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Contest, and the actual All-Star Game itself, it's also an excellent time to reflect on the season so far.

At this point, we're more than halfway through the NBA season. The Philadelphia 76ers have played exactly 55 games this year. As a supposed first-seed contender before the season started, the Sixers are considered to be a team that has performed below their expectations this year as they sit in fifth place in the East with a record of 34-21.

Just because the team hasn't exceeded expectations as a whole doesn't mean everybody falls under that category, though. Individual performances should be pointed out. Heading into the year, there were a few players who didn't have much expectations from the fans this season. Now that we have a good sample size, though let's acknowledge those who have exceeded expectations at this point in the year.

1. Matisse Thybulle, SG

Let's take a moment to think about how silly and overreactive some Sixers fans were on draft night. As we know, the Sixers are a team full of tall guys that like to post-up. Therefore, the fans were begging for a shot creator.

A kid named Carsen Edwards from Purdue was on the table and seemed to have fit the bill of what everybody desired. Many believed the Sixers were going to snag him, but Elton Brand and company took it in a different direction.

After completing a trade with the Boston Celtics, the Sixers moved on draft night and picked up the kid from Washington, who they promised would be in Philly when the draft rolls around. Matisse Thybulle has a lot of work to do on his game -- but it's tough to deny how good he's been on the defense side of the ball this year.

Thybulle leads his rookie class in steals and is a big-time contributor to the Sixers' stellar defense. While his offensive game could use some work, it's actually reasonable to say that Thybulle has been a much better three-point shooter than initially anticipated. Currently, he's averaging about two attempts-per-game, knocking down 37-percent of his shots.

2. Furkan Korkmaz, SG

Well, here's a guy that was thought to be out of the NBA after his second season. Over the summer, it was rumored that Furkan Korkmaz was staying home in Turkey, and signing with a pro team as opposed to returning to the United States of America to continue a young NBA career.

Apparently, interest wasn't so high for the young shooter. Once teams around the league saw the Sixers did not pick up his option and let him walk into free agency, the interest for Korkmaz in the NBA was very minimal. Eventually, though, the Sixers came calling.

In hindsight, that was the right move. Nobody knew what to expect out of Korkmaz this season. As a player who is supposed to specialize in three-point shooting, Korkmaz's career-high was underwhelming 32-percent.

This year, however, that number is up. Korkmaz has helped the Sixers a lot with his off the bench scoring as he's draining 39-percent of his three-pointers this year. While he turns in a bad game here and there, the Turkish guard has proven he deserves a steady handful of minutes off the bench.

3. Norvel Pelle, C

Be honest, did you know who Norvel Pelle was before the season started? Probably not. That's because Pelle's path to the NBA didn't involve coming from an NCAA program. Instead, the Antiguan big man has bounced around from many different non-collegiate programs, getting his first taste of pro basketball in 2013.

Back then, Pelle joined the Sixers' G-League affiliate the Delaware 87ers. After bouncing around, and playing on International teams, Pelle eventually found his way back to Delaware in 2019 as a part of the revamped Delaware G-League team, the Blue Coats.

This season, the Sixers signed Pelle to a two-way contract. Due to an injury that occurred to Joel Embiid, the Sixers decided to issue Pelle a shot in the big leagues after they saw an impressive performance during the preseason.

As it turns out, Pelle's rim protection is the real deal. Once the NBA trade deadline concluded, the Sixers decided to waive Jonah Bolden and ink Pelle to an NBA contract so he could finish the year out with the Sixers. While Pelle is currently buried behind Embiid and Al Horford on the depth chart, his journey up until this point is still quite impressive and should be applauded.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_