Bruno Fernando over Alperen Sengun? Why the winner of the Rockets center battle isn’t a surprise

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Fernando's defense is what the Rockets need

The other elephant in the room is the gulf in quality on defense. Sengun is a limited defender, and Fernando is far better at defending the rim and in space. Another concern is Sengun’s inability to end possessions. 

Sengun only averaged 2.7 defensive rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game in the preseason. This is a continuation of what we saw during his rookie season when averaged 6.2 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes. That was the 62nd-best mark in the league and the 52nd-best mark among centers and power forwards. 

Fernando gobbled up 11.1 defensive rebounds per 36-minutes with the Rockets last season and continued to demonstrate his prowess on the boards in the preseason. In 16.8 minutes per game, Fernando averaged 3.8 defensive rebounds. In the preseason, per 36-minutes, Sengun averaged 4.7 defensive rebounds compared to Fernando’s 8.1. 

Sengun still has time to grab the starting job

Alperen Sengun remains an incredibly talented player, but his talents need to be leaned into to justify playing him big minutes. Featuring Sengun as a third option takes him from an offensive plus to likely an offensive negative. Not to mention, his defensive limitations demand significant support. 

Sengun getting to cook off the bench might be the best way to maximize his traits. It is discouraging that Silas doesn’t view Sengun as a starter and that he’s unwilling or incapable of tweaking his offense to get the most out of Sengun with the starters. 

Sengun will likely start some games this season, and it cannot be forgotten that he’s the age of most NBA rookies. The NBA is a meritocracy, and there’s merit to starting Sengun on the bench. 

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