The Houston Rockets are heading into their final preseason game this Friday vs. the Indiana Pacers. Heading into this game, the Rockets have a 2-1 record after their loss Monday night against the Miami Heat. Alperen Sengun returned after a one-game absence following a dental procedure. However, Sengun had a rough night overall, only finishing with only 2 points on 1-for-5 shooting and plagued with foul trouble most of the game.
It has been an up-and-down preseason so far for Sengun, as he has shown flashes of what makes him unique. However, some of the same issues that occurred last year have also been displayed. What can we expect from Sengun in his second season in the NBA and first as a full-time starter?
New role and also new responsibilities for Sengun
Coming into training camp last year, there was some intrigue about Sengun even though there wasn't a lot of film of his play overseas. Some believed the Rockets had plans to send Sengun to the G-League. However, all that changed once Sengun stepped onto the court. From day one in training camp, Sengun showed that he was already one of the better players on the roster.
His outstanding play continued into Summer League and to start the season. The biggest issue when it came to Sengun most of last year was that he should be playing more minutes. The Rockets wanted to ease him into more court time, generally playing him 17-20 minutes a game. They felt he needed to work on his conditioning but were also concerned about foul trouble.
Going into this year, Sengun will be taking on a more significant role now that Christian Wood is in a Dallas Mavericks uniform. Sengun will be the full-time starter from now on, which means more minutes and being relied upon a lot more throughout the game. Which should be a benefit to the Rockets, especially players like Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green because it puts another playmaker on the court. It also means there is more potential for Sengun to get into foul trouble as he spends more time on the court. Here are the areas Sengun excels at and needs to work on this upcoming season.
As we have seen throughout Sengun’s time in H-town, he is a excellent passer and can be the main facilitator in some offensive sets. Sengun can be used at the top of the key as the main ball handler or you can run the offense through him in the post. He can free up Green or Porter Jr. to play off ball, which could open the court even more. The question is how much will the Rockets use Sengun in this capacity? You have Porter Jr., who of course will have the ball in his hand, and as we have seen the first three preseason games, Green will have the ball in his hands more as well as he intiates the offense.
Another strength of Sengun is his post up game. We saw all last year that Sengun can score against any defender from Richaun Holmes to Joel Embiid. Teams eventually started to double team Sengun, which is pretty remarkable considering he was a rookie. That is another way the floor can be open even more for the Rockets’ backcourt. It also puts pressure on the other team big men when it comes to staying out of foul trouble.
Areas for improvement
As mentioned earlier, Sengun’s foul trouble was an issue last year and also during his time playing for Turkey in Euro Basket. Sengun can sometimes be out of position or extend too far out when playing pick-and-roll defense, which leads to him having to foul the ball handler or the opposing big man in the post. Some of it is due to his lack of foot speed, but most of it is from technique.
With increased minutes, Sengun has to play more disciplind on the defensive end, which also includes not being to aggressive on rebounds or going for steals. Bruno Fernando is a good backup center, but Sengun is too valuable to not be on the court because of foul trouble.
A center shooting 40 percent from three-point range would be great, but its not necessary for a team to have success. In today's NBA, you do need a center who will not hesitate when giving open looks from beyond the arc. Sengun struggled last year from three-point range, shooting 24.8 percent from distance. That was on only 1.6 attempts a game, but teams will continue to leave Sengun open until he can prove he can make that shot. Again, he doesn't have to shoot 40 or even 35 percent, but he does have to improve this year, especially as a starter.
Alperen Sengun is still a young center heading into his second year. There are a lot more positives than negatives about Sengun’s game and if he continues on this trajectory the Rockets may have their center for the next several years