Houston Rockets: Player comps for the Rockets’ 2021-22 rookie class

N.B. Lindberg
2021 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot
2021 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot / Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
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Alperen Sengun, Saben Lee, Houston Rockets
Detroit Pistons v Houston Rockets / Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Houston Rockets' Alperen Sengun rookie comp: Domantas Sabonis

Alperen Sengun has an opportunity to be the steal of the draft. Players with his statistical track record end up having long and productive NBA careers. The Rockets landing him with the 16th pick, through a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, was one of the best moves of the draft. 

Sengun isn’t a Domantas Sabonis clone but the similarities are striking. Both are undersized centers or non-stretch-fours with advanced offensive games, excellent rebounding chops, and questions over their defensive impact. 

Sabonis has steadily improved over the course of his career but his rookie season left some wondering if he’d ever make a dent in the NBA. Sabonis was miscast in his rookie season as a floor spacer and only averaged 5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1 assist in 20.1 minutes a game. 

Domantas Sabonis, Davis Bertans, Daniel Gafford, Houston Rockets
Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards - Play-In Tournament / Will Newton/Getty Images

If Sengun gets 20 minutes a night, he’ll blow by those numbers, which makes Sabonis’ second season a much better comparison for what to expect from Sengun’s rookie season. As a rookie, Sabonis was used as a stretch four to accommodate Russell Westbrook drives. His shot isn’t horrible, but he’s much more dangerous in the low-post and from mid-range. 

When he was traded to Indiana, as part of the Paul George trade, the Pacers allowed him to play to his strengths and his statistics skyrocketed. In his second season, he averaged 11.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2 assists in 24.5 minutes a game. 

Sabonis’ first two seasons offer a road map for the Rockets to foster Sengun’s success. He’s a player who can be highly productive if he’s allowed to lean into his strengths. Sengun has a real chance to be as good as Sabonis. That’s a player who racks up multiple All-Star appearances and averages 20 and 10 throughout their prime.