Alperen Sengun will start sooner rather than later for the Rockets

Alperen Sengun, the MVP of the 2021 Turkish League, was a surprise pick for the Houston Rockets in the 2021 draft. The first reason it was a surprise was that the Rockets didn’t have the 16th pick in the draft, and another. reason it was a surprise was that no one knew much about Sengun at the time.

From the moment Sengun arrived in Houston, he has been a fan favorite. From his first interview, he has been loved by Rockets fans. That didn’t change when the Summer League rolled around as Sengun showed off his high basketball IQ and excellent sense of the game.

Sengun was one of the stars of the Summer League and has remained so in the preseason. Even missing part of training camp due to illness, Sengun has been one of the best players in the Rockets’ first three preseason games to date.

The Rockets have started Daniel Theis in the first three games of the preseason with mixed results. Theis is a solid veteran who can help the Rockets in certain situations, but overall there may be a better option. That option is Alperen Sengun.

Why Sengun might start sooner rather than later?

Houston Rockets v Toronto Raptors

Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images

Before the Summer League game started, there was talk that Sengun could spend some time in the G League to get consistent playing time. The more times the Rockets and their fans see Sengun on the field, the less likely it becomes each day.

As mentioned, Theis has been the starter so far this year, but some of his limitations came to the fore in the first three games. Theis is a solid defender and a good man for the basket, but shooting outside and making play aren’t exactly strong points.

Sengun has shown in his limited time on the pitch that he has an excellent view of the pitch and seems to read the piece a second or two faster than most players. Last night, for example, Sengun came to make a choice and immediately saw the Raptors defenders double the ball, so Sengun slipped the pick and roll to the basket for an easy layup.

This may not seem like a big deal, but being a second or two faster than your defenders makes a huge difference. His passes are already NBA ready and right now he is arguably the best passer on the team. When in play, the attack is smoother and less stagnant. The Rockets were behind early and as soon as Sengun came into play, the Rockets went on the run. Sengun’s score has improved in every game in three preseason games, although he still hasn’t played 20 minutes in any game.

It’s no coincidence that because Sengun makes everyone around him better, he never seems to be out of position, and his high/low passes would help Christian Wood by taking the ball out of his hand on the edge and giving him more of a roll man on the attack. It also takes the pressure off Kevin Porter Jr., who shouldn’t be the only playmaker in the starting lineup.

Putting Sengun somewhere in the starting lineup this year will help young players like Porter Jr. and Jalen Green, who are still trying to build chemistry in the backcourt.

There are areas where Sengun still needs to improve.

With every young player, even an experienced player like Sengun, there are areas to improve. Sengun will have to become a better shooter from the three point range. Teams will start playing him in pick and rolls and force him to make outside shots. The encouraging thing is that Sengun is a good free-throw shooter. This usually leads to better shots from the outside as players’ careers progress.

Sengun will also need to get stronger if he eventually becomes the starter. The only area missing for Sengun is in the defense. The good thing is that Sengun plays a good position defense. He will never become an elite defender like Draymond Green or Rudy Gobert, but he can stay ahead of his man and not make unnecessary mistakes. Once he gets stronger and can hold his own, at least he won’t be a negative defender.

The Rockets are a rebuilding team and, at least for this year, have the luxury of experimenting with their roster and lineups. Sengun may not start right away, but the writing is on the wall (not that wall), and his skills will be a better fit for the Rockets’ young starters as the season progresses. Who would have thought this two months ago, but Sengun starts sooner rather than later.

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