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A case for Alperen Sengun to start

Alperen Sengun’s defense and passing is the biggest part of his game so far.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Alperen Sengun has looked impressive in small samples on the court, as he’s flashed unexpected defense and passing. His skill set has been unique since Summer League in Las Vegas, and it has caught spectators’ attention. Sengun makes good reads and the right play while being on the court. So far, he has averaged 18.6 minutes per game with 20.4 percent usage rating while coming off the bench. Defense is his biggest friend. Sengun played great switch defense on Jayson Tatum off the pick-and-roll.

Coach Stephen Silas has made good use for Sengun, as he creates space for Christian Wood and finds him with nifty passing and lob specials. Sengun’s passing is unique for a 6’10” big man from Turkey, and he averages 2.3 assist per game. Although it isn’t a ton of dimes, it’s the ball placement and creativity that impresses the coaching staff in Houston. He puts his teammates in the right position in half court and transition. His assist-turnover ratio is 0.70, which is extremely impressive. Sengun has given similar accolades of Nikola Jokic (though without the volume).

The Houston Rockets are plus one with Sengun on the court, and Daniel Theis is a -6.7 when in the starting lineup. Sengun makes the Rockets more versatile on the court because of his elite skill set. Wood and Sengun have built good chemistry on the court inside and outside the post. On defense, Wood-Sengun have a 101 defensive rating, while Theis-Wood are posted at 111.8 defensive rating. The Sengun-Wood offensive rating is posted at 106.6 and Theis-Wood has become a 100.8. Sengun brings more space next to Wood. Sengun has assisted Wood five times in three games so far. (Per NBA stats)

Sengun has shown scoring abilities, as he is averaging 8.0 points per game. He makes a good living on putbacks, loose rebounds, and trash buckets near the rim. It would be a good idea for Sengun to get post-up isolations, so it puts more pressure on the defense. Silas doesn’t want to add any pressure on the young rookie, as it is still baby steps for Sengun. Organically, more things will be seen from Sengun over time.

Defensively, Sengun has looked impressive on guarding shooting-guards in the NBA. His lateral quickness plays a big factor. He was seen playing great defense Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Sengun is great at covering ground because of his long strides and arm length. His shot blocking is key to the Rockets’ help side defense and in one-on-one situations. He is averaging 1.0 block and 2.3 steals per game, as his hands are quick and active on defense. Sengun weighs 243lbs, so his weight allows him to hold his own and act like a brick to a smaller matchup.

Sengun is versatile in switch defense, as he has made it hard for the pick-and-roll ball handler to have space. He shocks a lot of guards in one-on-one defense, which is still surprising because of his size. If a turnover occurs, Sengun’s teammates are already looking for him because of his playmaking skills. He’ll usually force turnovers and make the right or craziest play in transition.

He is playing great ball because of his basketball IQ and communication on the court. Sengun sustains great patience, composure, and attention so it gives him extra edge. Hopefully, bigger samples are shown from this season. In my opinion, he should start over Theis.