The reaction around the league ranged from excitement to curiosity when the Houston Rockets selected Alperen Sengun with the 16th overall pick after trading into the spot during the draft. Sengun was coming off a Turkish league MVP season, but wasn't widely known amongst many NBA fans. Some scouts had him high as top 10 coming into the draft. Some had him at the back end of the first round.
It didn't take long for people to realize that the Rockets had one of the draft's biggest steals in Sengun. Even with limited minutes for most of the season, Sengun has been one of the best rookies in the NBA. On the season, Sengun is averaging 8.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in only a little over 18 minutes a game. On top of that, he has some of the best passes you will see all year from any player, not just rookies.
When Sengun is in the game, the offense flows much better, and his teammates are constantly moving because they know it's a good chance if they get open that Sengun will deliver the pass to them. The one area that Sengun has struggled with this season has been his outside shot. At times, he hesitates and doesn't look confident beyond the arc. Last night, that changed, and if it continues to improve, it opens up many possibilities for the big man from Turkey.
Three-point shooting opens up the entire floor for Sengun
In Houston’s narrow loss to the defending Western Conference Champion Phoenix Suns, the Rockets were without two starters, but yet still had one of their best games of the season. Both Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. were out for yesterday's contest, which meant more time for Sengun at the starting center spot.
Sengun took full advantage, finishing with 19 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 assists in 28 minutes. One of the biggest things that stood out was his three-point shooting. Last night, Sengun was 3-4 from deep as Deandre Ayton and the Suns made no effort to guard Sengun from the outside.
Yes, it is a small sample size, but if Sengun can consistently make shots not just from deep but beyond the painted area, it opens up his entire game. Teams will have to come out to guard Sengun, who, as we all know, already has some of the best footwork in the NBA. This also opens up more possibilities for assists if defenders try to run Sengun off the three-point line. That opens up the lane for cutters like Jalen Green and KJ Martin.
One reason for optimism beyond last night's game is that Sengun shot over 80 percent from the free-throw line in his time overseas. Free throws are usually a good judge of how a player’s shooting form translates to the NBA, and that high free throw percentage in Turkey suggests that Sengun's shot doesn't need any changing, he just has to be more confident taking jumpers.
He is sometimes compared to Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets because of his post moves and passing. However, Jokic is a complete offensive player because he shoots over 37 percent from the three-point line. Keep in mind, Jokic shot 30 and 31 percent in 2018-19 and 2019-20, and now he’s improved so much that teams make sure not to leave him open. If Sengun can improve his outside shooting, the league will be in big trouble, and the Rockets could have a future superstar for years to come.