Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun had his first career triple double last night against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday this week. Although the team as a whole lost in a blowout 135-115 and are falling further and further towards G-League level of play, consider Sengun’s growth as a player in his sophomore season.
Breaking Records at 20
Not only is Sengun the youngest Rocket to ever hit a triple double, but also his 10-10-10 performance speaks volumes in his potential as possibly the better candidate as the rosters primary facilitator. While most Rockets fans and reporters see it, does the head coaching staff see it as well? Right now, Stephen Silas is still giving Kevin Porter Jr. the bulk of ball facilitations, and he’s been far from consistent.
Porter or Alpi?
There are only a few times during each game where Porter feels comfortable making solid plays. But most of the time, Porter appears lost and goes completely iso with knee-jerking ill-advised passes five or four seconds before the shot clock expires.
When Porter left Wednesday’s game due to injury, the offense felt more enigmatic and unpredictable to the opposing team. This provided Houston to come back and take the lead down the stretch. How did this happen? Sengun’s style of playmaking and how well he involves his teammates.
Sengun said it himself after the game: “We played a different offense because when Scoot (Porter) is in the game, our offense is a little bit different,” Sengun said. “And I knew after (he went out), I’m gonna touch the ball more because everything is changed.”
This poses the question: Why not give Sengun the ball more? He’s more than capable to facilitate a team. Porter has more talent as a streaky scorer and isn’t positioned in the correct way.
Many opposing players, veterans and young players alike, call Sengun “baby Jokic,” a compliment of Denver Nuggets’ two-time MVP in Nikola Jokic. Veteran player Nicolas Batum on the Los Angeles Clippers spoke during a post game press conference citing “baby Jokic. That’s what I call him because he’s kind of like him.”
Austin Rivers, a former Rocket who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves, chimed in as well on Sengun’s untapped potential on the floor:
“His skill level & his scoring level? He could make an All-Star game. He’s really good. Should they be playing through him? Probably…Jalen & him are the two guys they gotta continue to play through.”
NBA pros clearly see Sengun’s potential. This is a known fact: If Sengun was given the keys to this teams primary offense, his development would skyrocket on the team and make his players better. Think of Denver back in 2015. They were completely in no mans just two years removed from their playoff performance in 2013.
Drafting Jokic in 2015 appeared as an afterthought. Upon further analyzation, player development fully understood how high his ceiling was going to be. And what did they do? They rebuilt their team around him, continued retooling and got better and better every season. Since the 2018-2019 season, they’ve been in the playoffs. Right now, Jokic is a two-time MVP and the Nuggets are first in the Western Conference.
A Need for Change
What are the Rockets front office plotting with this roster configuration? These core pieces—Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr, Alperen Sengun—are supposed to be their future. Heck, throw in KJ Martin in the mix as well. He knows exactly what his role is this year and he’s been thriving in it. These players have massive talent but hardly have anything to show for it in their third straight rebuilding season.
One of the main reasons why Houston is losing badly game after game is their struggling second unit. There’s no secure role for a backup point guard. Daishen Nix has fell out of the rotation and TyTy Washington needs more reps in the G-League to increase his confidence against the pros. Players such as Garrison Matthews and Bruno Fernando aren’t necessarily making up for their minutes. Josh Christopher is also not receiving the ample playing time he has in games past. For the Rockets daily struggles, the team is quite top heavy with poor configuration.
The answer is simple: Give Sengun the ball let the man do his thing.
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