The Houston Rockets walked away from the 2021 NBA Draft with arguably the best draft class, as the Rockets landed four studs, in the eyes of many. The Rockets selected Jalen Green with the second overall pick, which was an unsurprising move, as it had been reported prior to the start of the draft that the Rockets were leaning that direction.
What was surprising, however, was the trade that the Rockets made during the draft with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which sent the 16th pick to Houston, in exchange for a conditional 2022 first-round pick (owned by the Detroit Pistons) and a conditional 2023 first-round pick (owned by the Washington Wizards). The Rockets used the pick to select Alperen Sengun, the 6-foot-10 big man from Turkey, who averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.7 blocks in 2020-21.
Sengun has been the highlight of the NBA's 2021 Las Vegas Summer League, with draft experts labeling him as the breakout player in Vegas. Sengun has posted averages of 15 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 1.3 steals through the Rockets' first three games in Vegas, and has been a big reason for the Rockets' 2-1 start in Summer League play.
Sengun has drawn early comparisons to Indiana Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis and 2021 NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, which proves how much value the Rockets got for such a talented player at #16. With comparisons to the league's most recent MVP and a multi-time All-Star, it's clear that the media has become aware of Sengun's overall ability.
Okay, now the praise for Houston Rockets' rookie Alperen Sengun has gone a little too far
But in some cases the praise may have gone a tad bit too far. Case in point, former Houston Rockets forward Eddie Johnson, who is also the co-host of Sirius XM's NBA Today.
"He could win the Rookie of the Year. That young man could probably wind up being Rookie of the Year. Based on foot movement, physicality, him playing against grown men.
It's being prepared, knocking people around. All those things a big man needs to get fed like none other.
He's going to get opportunities at the rim so he's going to consistently be getting touches. He's going to be setting picks, Christian Wood isn't going to be setting picks.
His advantage is that he's been playing against grown men for the last 2 or 3 years."
Johnson's breakdown of how Sengun will be utilized and how he'll be able to make a seamless transition to the league because of his professional playing experience are both spot on. But where he crosses the line is with the Rookie of the Year talk. And it isn't a disrespect to Sengun to disagree with Johnson on this.
The reality is that Sengun will almost certainly be coming off of the bench this season and will have less opportunities than Detroit's Cade Cunningham or the Rockets' Jalen Green to put up numbers and help carry the team, which is generally what voters look for when casting their ballots for the Rookie of the Year award.
But the good thing is that the media has started to take notice of Sengun's game. The even better thing, for the Rockets, is that they were able to land him so late in the draft, when he very well could have gone to the Oklahoma City Thunder.