Height – 6’10
Weight – 240 lbs
Wingspan – N/A
Alperen Sengun has not really been on anybody’s radar until the last month or so. However, the young Turkish big man has risen dramatically from being a late first round pick to the top-10 of the lottery. I think he is a draft steal and should be a player that the Thunder looks into.
Sengun’s play has been forged in a highly competitive environment. Sengun currently plays in the Basketball Super League, Turkey’s top division of basketball. The BSL is arguably the second most difficult league in Europe and the fourth toughest league in the world. He has faced the sort of competition that the majority of players in this Draft have not.
Alperen plays in one of the most basketball-crazed cities in the world, Istanbul. Istanbul has six professional basketball teams who play in the BSL. The rivalry between Besiktas and Galatasaray or the rivalry between Besiktas and Fenerbahce is intense and almost violently competitive. That atmosphere forges tough, resilient basketball players.
Out of this environment, Sengun emerged as a star. He was named MVP of the BSL last season and it is not difficult to see why. He was a double-double machine who dominated games and dragged Besiktas to victories.
He is an offensive hub whenever he goes onto the low block. Sengun has an array of post moves that he uses to move defenders around and get a clean look at the rim. Aside from his scoring, Alperen is a smart passer who is comfortable orchestrating the offense from the block.
Sengun is a confident shooter from the mid-range and his touch suggests that he will be able to extend his range out to the 3-point line. His shot already looks effortless and he could be a serviceable shooter from downtown in the NBA. In recent workouts, Sengun has already shown proficiency from outside.
The only real downside to his game would be his defense. Sengun is pretty poor defensively and has not really shown any ability when it comes to getting stops. He is somewhat limited athletically and will struggle to guard bigger centers such as Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic.
Moreover, Sengun does not move his feet well which will limit Coach Daigneault’s options when it comes to pick and roll coverage. Hedging and switching on screens for Sengun will not result in the right result defensively. Really, the only coverage that will work with Sengun on the court would be the drop.
A fair and reasonable comparison for Alperen would be Kevin Love; a player with great skill down low but one who will struggle defensively. Sengun’s physicals suggest that he will be a ‘4.5’ rather than being a true ‘5’. He may not have the verticality needed to defend against lob threats.
There is a clear role for Sengun on the Thunder. Moses Brown and Al Horford were both traded away to the Boston Celtics. Tony Bradley did fine during the second half of the season but him returning to Oklahoma City is still uncertain. I would expect Mike Muscala to return to Oklahoma City.
Sengun will be the Thunder’s starting center if Presti chooses to take him in the Draft. His fit with the rest of the Thunder’s starting lineup is encouraging to say the least. Sengun can play in the post, as a roll-man and as an orchestrator down low.
He would be another playmaker in the starting lineup and this might relieve some of the offensive load off Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s shoulders. Moreover, Sengun’s shooting could mean that he is a very useful pick and pop partner for Shai.
Alperen Sengun averaged 19 points, 9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks per game in a highly competitive league as a teenager. He posted a PER of 30.92 and had a 69.2% true shooting percentage.
Mullayo, my good friend and valued member of the community, has Sengun ranked as the No.1 prospect in this Draft Class according to his newly created metric, PCP40. The stats and the eye test suggest that Alperen Sengun is a special, special player.
Sengun had plenty of strong games last year but this was the pick of the bunch. He dominated against Tofas Bursa and flirted with a triple-double. You have to understand that triple-doubles are very rare in Europe and it is difficult statistical feat to achieve. To date, there have only been 9 triple-doubles in the history of Turkish basketball.
The numbers jump off the page but it was his skill level that left my jaw on the floor. There was one possession when he secured the board, dribbled the ball up the floor and made the correct read to a teammate. You do not expect bigs to be able to play completely like a guard.
Sengun’s greatest skill is the skill that he will probably use sparingly in the NBA. Alperen Sengun is a polished low-post scorer who has an arsenal of assured moves down low. Sengun has spin moves, up and under moves and hook shots in his bag already. He is an intelligent player with a great touch around the rim. This intelligence compensates for Sengun’s lack of pop in the paint.
Alperen can finish above the rim but that vertical explosion does not come easily to him; Sengun is not Tyson Chandler, he cannot glide above the rim and slam down dunks. He primarily plays below the basket and uses his touch to get buckets close to the rim.
In the NBA, Sengun’s post scoring is a supplementary skill. It is nice for Sengun to have but the majority of NBA teams do not run a lot of offense through the post. There are only really two bigs in the NBA who can run an offense from the block, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid.
For the Thunder, Sengun will primarily be used in screen actions or as a ball-handler. Alperen shot just 19% from deep last season but that number somewhat belies his potential as a stretch-5. Sengun shot 81% from the stripe which is a good indicator of his range in the NBA.
Moreover, recent film provides more evidence that Sengun will have a workable long ball in the NBA. His shot looks fluid and I think that his mechanics will translate to the NBA.
Sengun’s jumper will mean that the Thunder can run the same sort of pick and pop sets that they ran last season with Shai and Al. Pick and pop play drags the big out of the painted area and gives Shai wide open space when he is attacking the basket. Sengun’s size and the speed of his release will make him difficult to block if he is launching away from downtown.
Alperen is also a skilled operator whenever he is rolling to the rim. Sengun makes use of his size and touch to find the angle which beats the defense. While he does not have elite athleticism, Sengun has just enough hops to finish above the rim and dunk the ball.
He has also displayed real feel for the game as a passer and was very creative for Besiktas. Besiktas primarily used Sengun down low in the post and he was consistently able to find shooters on the perimeter. The Thunder will not use Sengun in the post all that much but it is clear that he has a good understanding of spacing and playmaking.
Sengun is a smart passer and would be a useful option to have in the front-court for Coach Daigneault. Bigs who can make plays for their teammates present challenges for the opposing defense that are difficult to solve particularly if Sengun is pushing the ball up court and creating in transition.
Sengun brings a lot of benefit to a team with his passing and shooting but there are concerns about his defense. Sengun’s defense is the swing skill which will determine whether he is Kevin Love or Pau Gasol. For Alperen to become an elite player, he must learn solid fundamentals on the defensive end of the floor.
Sengun’s problems on defense are partially caused by his limited athleticism; Alperen does not have the size or explosiveness right now to defend larger centers. In addition to this, Alperen does not have the lateral quickness to contain guards in open space. Shane Larkin is one of the quickest guards in Europe and he roasted Sengun when Efes played Besiktas.
His other limitation is that Sengun’s positioning is quite weak and it seems that he does not know where to be on the floor defensively. He can get caught out of position and have no chance of recovering on the play because there is simply too much separation between him and the attacking player.
I cannot fault his effort on defense but he will need to spend a ton of time on his technique. Slower, less athletic centers must have great positioning and anticipation to be effective on defense in the NBA.
The one positive relating to Sengun’s defense is that it is likely that he will lose some weight and become more mobile. Alperen lost 27 lbs before the start of last season and his conditioning was much improved. It is entirely possible that he drops another 10 lbs and gains a little more lateral quickness. Perhaps that marginal improvement makes him a more switchable defender.
Alperen Sengun is an exciting prospect who arguably should be a top-five pick. Sengun’s been a sleeper all year long due to the fact that he plays in Turkey and very few people have been able to watch him live.
In the last few years, the Thunder have prioritised smart, technical players. Aleksej Pokusevski, Theo Maledon and Gabriel Deck typify that shift in the thinking. Alperen Sengun fits that mould and would fit well into the Thunder’s team.