Jalen Green is without a doubt the most talented rookie the Houston Rockets drafted in late July, but it appears that Alperen Sengun has already established himself as the second-best prospect. And since it only took two future draft picks to acquire the rights of the Turkish native, the Rockets could end up with one of the biggest draft-day steals over the previous five years.
Of the 60 players selected during the 2021 NBA Draft, Sengun was one of several players ready to play basketball on the highest level right away.
The 6’10” big man won MVP honors of the Turkish league after averaging 18.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 34 games. And during the Las Vegas Summer League, Sengun exhibited all of the top attributes that made him a desirable recruit for general manager Rafael Stone.
On the offensive side of the ball, Sengun is a hybrid between a traditional big who can score down on the low-post and a modern-day center whose versatility allows him to be a playmaker. With Sengun, Houston added size to their frontcourt and someone who can assist Christian Wood in cleaning the boards on a nightly basis.
During media day in September, Sengun mentioned that one of the players he idolized is current league-MVP and Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokić — who he has modeled his game after.
“I want to be one of the stars of the team, and I am going to work hard to become one of them.” — Sengun
Sengun’s lack of physical strength is one of two weakness ahead of his rookie season. Similar to most players who have reached the NBA following their career overseas, it will take Sengun some time to adjust to the league’s physicality.
Sengun’s lack of strength was most evident during the Rockets’ 113-106 preseason loss to the Miami Heat, where he had a tough time defending Bam Adebayo during the short time the two respective big men were matched on the court.
However, the most significant pessimistic part of Sengun’s game is his three-point shooting. Rockets head coach Stephen Silas will continue to run a five-out offense, and Sengun could be a liability given his issues from beyond the arc.
He shot 19 percent from deep in Turkey last season and missed his lone three-point field goal attempt of the preseason. But Sengun’s shooting concerns may not be a problem for long, as the 19-year-old rookie has placed a hefty emphasis on improving his thee-point shot in camp.
Sengun will experience several up-and-down moments throughout his rookie year, but the 2021-22 season will be a prelude to what should be a long and prosperous NBA career.