The Houston Rockets traded up using two future draft picks in order to select former Turkish League MVP Alperen Sengun with the 16th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Sengun instantly became a fan favorite with his “I’m so happy” meme, and H-town’s love for Alpie only grew from there.
Despite struggling for court time, especially early in the year behind Daniel Theis and Christian Wood, Sengun’s skills and advanced basketball IQ were on full display for everyone to see. From ridiculous passes out of the high post to a plethora of mini-Dream like moves in the low block, it only added to Houston fans’ love for the 6’9” big man from Turkey, and Rockets lovers on social media were demanding more minutes for the 19-year-old.
Though he sometimes struggled with fouls — as most young big men do — his minutes gradually increased as the season moved forward and he was able to show exactly what he could do despite his young age when he had the court time. He went for 19 points, 14 rebounds, a steal, and a block in a close February 16 loss to the Phoenix Suns. And he put up 21 points, 14 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in a March 9 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
But something funny happened on Sengun’s journey to more time on the court. Despite his mostly solid play, a lot fans became split down the middle on Sengun’s future with the team. You have one side who sees his post scoring and passing instincts and consider Sengun an integral part of Houston’s future.
But then you have another side who see his defensive struggles, mediocre rim protection, and poor three-point shooting as a reason Sengun could actually be expendable moving forward for Houston. Opinions are split... is he one of the guys to build around or is he going to be difficult to build around?
Regardless, it was a successful rookie season in which he averaged 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 0.9 blocks per game on 47.4 percent shooting from the field and 24.8 percent from deep. He played in 72 games while starting 13 of them.
Where Sengun goes from here is anyone’s guess. I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s going to, at the least, become a very good player. But as the Rockets continue to tweak their lineup around Jalen Green, there are several possibilities. One is that he develops that three-point shot and becomes more well-rounded on defense and remains part of Houston’s core. Another is that they trade him in a package for superstar after he grows his game a bit. Another is that they trade him relatively soon, which really depends on what happens in this year’s draft.
Personally, I’d like to see him stay long term, especially considering Christian Wood is not long for Rockets red, but depending on what superstar we would be talking about here, I wouldn’t be dead set against going that trade route eventually. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get lucky and Sengun will become a star himself, stay in H-town as part of the core around Green, and all this speculation becomes moot.
Regardless, I’ll be looking forward to his second season at the Toyota Center.