Numbers Don’t Lie: Why Alperen Sengun has all-star potential

Alperen Sengun (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Alperen Sengun (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

After being drafted with the 16th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Alperen Sengun has seen his role continue to increase with the Houston Rockets week after week and month after month. After a respectable rookie campaign where he averaged 9.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 2.6 APG, he has stepped it up quite a bit during his sophomore season and has been one of the few bright spots for Houston. A big reason for this growth is that the Rockets are finally turning to him as a key cornerstone piece and everyday starter. Of the 43 games this year, he has started 40 of them and is up to averaging 27.8 minutes per game.

With the increased role, Alperen Sengun has dazzled with his knack to score around the rim, ability to facilitate the ball, and energy and willingness to snag both offensive and defensive boards. Since the new year, he has also seen his productivity skyrocket. In his 11 games in January, he is averaging 18.5 PPG, 9.6 RPG, and 5.8 APG in 31.8 minutes per game. That begs the question: How does Sengun compare to the first few seasons of the two current best-passing big men in the NBA?

Sengun Becoming as good as Domantas Sabonis seems inevitable.

Alperen Sengun’s optimistic yet still realistic ceiling has always been Domantas Sabonis. Sengun and Sabonis are nearly identical sizes (6’11″ and 240 pounds vs. 6’11″ and 243 pounds) and have similar wingspans (6’11″ vs. 7’0″). They also showcase very similar styles of play and weaknesses, with both of them being high-level rebounders, interior scorers, and passers, but both lack a consistent three-point shot, are below-average free-throw shooters and can be turnover-prone. After Sabonis was drafted #11 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, he had his own breakout season during his third year, where he averaged 14.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, and 2.9 APG with the Indiana Pacers.

These marks are nearly identical to Sengun’s current averages of 15.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG, and 3.6 APG. Since January, the Rockets have also been playing through their Turkish big more frequently, and his assist numbers reflect that with 6+ assists in eight straight games. It’s also worth noting that Sabonis didn’t start putting up these numbers until he was 22 years old, whereas Sengun is doing it at 20. Unfortunately, unlike Sabonis in his younger years, the talent of Sengun has not translated to wins for Houston.

How unrealistic is a Jokic comparison for Alperen Sengun?

Anytime someone tries to compare a young player to a two-time, back-to-back MVP, they must tread very lightly. Now, no one is saying that Sengun is likely to become Nikola Jokic or even come close to that insane skill level, but it is fair to say that there is a non-zero chance that it can happen. Let’s look at the comparisons and differences:

Body type-wise, the comparison is lacking. While both big men stand 6’11″, Nikola Jokic weighs in at roughly 285 pounds and showcases a 7’3″ wingspan, so to put it simply, he is much bigger than Sengun. With that being said, Sengun’s statistics in January look eerily similar to Jokic’s sophomore season marks of 16.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 4.9 APG. Once again, he is ahead of schedule from a statistical standpoint, as Jokic was a year older (21) during his second season.

Numbers aside, Nikola Jokic was probably still a more refined passer in 2016-2017 than Sengun is this season, and Jokic was also already showing signs of being a more consistent three-point shooter and free-throw shooter, unlike Sengun.

Next. Jokic's MVP 3-peat faces historic pushback. dark

It is highly improbable that Alperen Sengun ever enters the same tier as Nikola Jokic, but one thing is clear: it is the young center that Houston should be building their team around, not Jabari Smith Jr. or Jalen Green.