1. Alperen Sengun
Three years into Rafael Stone's tenure as the Houston Rockets GM, Alperen Sengun has been perhaps his biggest find. Make no mistake about it: Sengun has been his signature move.
Stone traded up to get Sengun outside of the draft lottery, which was a true steal, considering his skillset. The biggest NBA stars have taken notice of Sengun's talent too.
Future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant has given Sengun praise and it doesn't just stop there. Take a look at what LA Clippers superstar Paul George had to say about the Turkish big man.
At that size, at that position...his playmaking. I mean I've seen some flashiness where he [pretends to throw a behind-the-back pass]...on some Magic Johnson type of sh-t.
He can really hoop. He's got a good touch, a good feel. He's got playmaking, great vision. He's gonna be the baby Joker.
I think he has the full, complete package at the center position.
He's got shades of Marc Gasol, he's got shades of Pau Gasol. He's got shades of Jokic.
He's got shades of like the great bigs that can pass, that can shoot, that can playmake. He's a super, super high IQ player. I love his game."
George compares Sengun, a center, to Magic Johnson, who is viewed as one of the all-time great point guards in league history. Perhaps the most common positional comparisons we've seen for Sengun have been Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis, due to their ability to create and facilitate for others.
But there's a pretty vast drop off in salary between Sengun and those players. And that's an understatement.
Jokic ranks as the highest-paid center in the league, as he's set to make $47.6 million in 2023-24, while Sabonis is the eighth-highest paid power forward in the league at $28 million guaranteed (and potentially an additional $2.6 million in incentives).
Sengun is the 47th-highest paid center in the league at $3.5 million next season, which is absolutely insane. I think you know that there aren't 46 better players than Sengun at the center position.
Sengun's $3.5 million in 2023-24 ranks 284th among all players, and again, there aren't 283 better players than Sengun. Granted, the Rockets don't necessarily deserve credit for his contract, as it's rookie scaled and essentially pre-determined (like Eason's).
But his value surpasses his earnings ten-fold, as Sengun averaged 14.8 points, 9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists, while shooting 55.3 percent from the field, and 59.9 percent true shooting last season. What's even more impressive is the fact that Sengun pulled this off without any real structure.