The Alperen Sengun superstar question

Minnesota Timberwolves v Houston Rockets
Minnesota Timberwolves v Houston Rockets / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages
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Alperen Sengun has been on a tear lately. He’s averaging 22 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game over the past six games, and over the course of a 13-game losing streak, he became the one decent part of Houston Rockets’ basketball. His combination of low-post bully ballet, ball fakes, improvisational passing, and general audacity has made him can’t miss television. At least once a night, he’ll make you gasp as you witness something truly spectacular, and he does nearly all of it below the rim. 

The Rockets may stink, but watching Sengun cook has given the season new purpose. Yeah, the Rockets will probably lose, but enjoying a basketball savant learn on the job is like discovering a relatively obscure music artist before they make it big. Everything they do is still thrilling as they push the boundaries of their talent in unforeseen directions, and you feel like you’re the only one in the audience. 

Was Sengun always destined for stardom?

I was a big believer in Alperen Sengun even before the Houston Rockets swung a draft day trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder to land him. In the run-up to the 2021 draft, I wanted the Rockets to select him with the 23rd pick, writing, “He probably won’t be here, but I’m a sucker for guys who produce in pro-leagues, and he just won the Turkish league MVP at 18. He moves like a 6’9 ballerina and should average at least 15 points and 10 rebounds right off the bat.” 

I rarely hit a take this out of the park, but with Sengun, it was just so obvious to me that he was going to be an impact NBA player. He won the Turkish League MVP as an 18-year-old, averaging 19.2 points and 9.4 rebounds on 64.6-percent shooting in 28.3 minutes a game. The Turkish league is considered the third-best domestic league in the world, behind the NBA and the Spanish league. It’s unheard of for a teenager to dominate professionals like that, and when they do, they’re Luka Doncic and Alperen Sengun. 

Sengun didn’t average 15 and 10 right off the bat. He only averaged 9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a rookie, but he only played 20.7 minutes a night and made 13 total starts. However, this season, the Rockets finally decided to ride him as their starting center, and he’s averaging 15.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. 

Sengun is trending way up

Adding even more fuel to the Sengun hype train has been his play in the second quarter of the season. He’s averaging 17.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game over his past 19 games. At 20 years old, it’s clear Sengun has an incredibly bright NBA future, but the question remains if he can reach the level of a superstar. 

The label superstar gets thrown around quite liberally these days. I am not a fan of that. There should only be one GOAT (it’s greatest of all time, after all), and the superstar club should be as small as possible. My personal definition of a superstar is a consistent top-15 player. Superstars are inked into the top-15 player discourse, while lesser players fluctuate in and out over a multi-season period. Usually, there are around ten superstars at any given time and another ten on the periphery who flirt with it. 

Can Alperen Sengun reach those lofty levels and receive the distinction of future NBA superstar from yours truly? Let’s take a look and find out.