As Draft Season continues to march on, I wanted to take a closer look at an international prospect who is generating some serious buzz. Often with prospects that are playing overseas, you'll get the familiar storyline. A raw young teenager who is fighting to earn his playing time with a veteran squad. But this 18-year-old big man is a different story. Allow me to introduce you to Alperen Sengun. Now if you haven't had your attention on basketball overseas this year it's okay...because that's why you love us.
Sengun is incredible to watch as a talent evaluator and it's honestly a bit amusing. Let me put it this way, if you're hoping to watch a freak-of-nature athletic big man...you are going to be disappointed. The 6'10" 240-pound big man won't jump off of the tape when it comes to his ability to play above the rim. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Sengun knows his limitations and he finds another way to beat you...with his mind. Imagine someone playing elite-level chess as an 18-year-old (shoutout to all of my Queen's Gambit fans). Okay, let's get serious folks. Normally, most scouts and evaluators would draw caution to a prospect that is coming out of the Turkish League. With respect to those players, normally the top talent in Europe will someway be playing in the Euroleague. But there's also the rare instance in which a prospect starts to turn heads somewhere else with his play and simply cannot be ignored. That's the case with Alperen Sengun. The young big man is putting up eye-opening numbers so far and the numbers are too impressive to neglect. As of now, Sengun has played 24 on the year, averaging 19.5 PTS, 9.3 REB, 2.2 AST, and 1.8 BLK while shooting 64.1% from the field and 78.2% from the free throw line. Enough is enough. Let's watch some film.
When you're evaluating a big man, especially one as young as Alperen Sengun, it's always important to start out with the feet and hands. A good combination of both can get you a long way in the basketball world. As mentioned previously, Sengun isn't going to wow you with his explosiveness. Sengun is 18-years-old but he's already a technician when it comes to how he beats his defenders. What I'm looking at here involves how Sengun anticipates his defender's movements and counters them. Imagine knowing from an early age that you're not going to be more athletic than most of your opponents on a daily basis. How would you adapt? Sengun has realized that he can beat them with his patience, footwork, and his mind. A great example of it all here.
This play was important because you get to see the aggressiveness that Sengun has. Sure he's not afraid to lull a defender to sleep and then embarrass him with footwork like a seasoned boxer, but as evaluators...you also want to see the other side. Once Alperen sees daylight on this roll, he attacks with bad intentions.
It didn't take long into the film dive to notice that Sengun had some special ability as a passer. It even got to the point where I started laughing out loud like the Joker in an interrogation room after some of the passes this kid made. While Sengun has the frame and build that will pencil him as a potential power forward/center prospect in the NBA, he has the passing ability of a guard. For all of those wanting me to make some Nikola Jokic comparisons, please let's just pump the breaks for now. There's definitely something special about how Sengun sees the floor. This is a valuable lesson in don't just read the box scores. After you see the next couple of "playmaking" clips, you'll realize there's more to this kid than just the fact he averages 2.2 assists per game.
FOOTWORK PART II
Another look at the patience by Sengun here in the post. Notice that Alperen quarterbacks this play, going through reads before he realizes he needs to make a play. Off of the attack, we see that Sengun sells his first drop which gets the primary defender completely out of position. When you're trying to beat your opponents with your mind, you look for the smallest of windows to take advantage of. Right when Sengun gets his defender to bite at the first sell, he spins back and shows great touch.
This isn't a strong part of Sengun's game, but it leaves me intrigued by the potential for it to become an "asset" moving forward. As of now, Sengun is only shooting 17.6% from 3, and before you let that completely scare you, might I point out that he's averaging 0.7 attempts per game. Still, looking at the mechanics and rotation, Alperen looks to have some untapped ability as a potential floor spacer. I'm not saying he will make a living out there, but think of some potential Marc Gasol ability, as someone who can make the defense respect him from outside.
This is one of those passes that gets your undivided attention. It's basically like an espresso shot for a film watcher. All of a sudden, you feel a jolt of energy to keep diving deeper down the rabbit hole. This wasn't the only time that Sengun made a sensational pass like this, as you'll see soon. While the pass is beautiful, there's a number of areas I'm looking at here. Notice the patience by Segun to wait for the double team to arrive. He basically is inviting the second defender into his own home for dinner. Once the double team comes, Sengun sees the opening and throws a gorgeous behind-the-back dime. With a long of young big man prospects, you'll see them show some hesitancy when a double team comes. Some just simply can't get adjusted to surveying the floor and panic. Sengun invites it, knowing that he's about to pick a defense apart.
PLAYMAKING ABILITY PART II
One of the areas that Sengun might intrigue NBA teams the most is his ability in the P&R game. Specifically, he's fantastic when it comes to his ability on the short roll. In fact, Sengun ranks in the 91st percentile currently when it comes to his offense as the P&R Roll Man (via Synergy). Here's a great look at some of his potential to be an asset at the NBA level. As stated at the beginning of this Film Room, good hands and footwork can get you a long way in the basketball world. This is a tough catch on the roll and it's even more impressive that Sengun was able to get under control and see the floor in a hurry. Notice how he gets the defender to commit and at the absolute last second, he throws a gorgeous wrap-around pass.
THE "PLEASE REWIND THAT"
This is one of those plays that you circle and make sure you always come back to it. Great anticipation on the defensive side of the ball and this is what makes Sengun a potentially special asset. While Alperen might be a center at the next level, he's quick to the ball and has the ability to push the ball himself in transition. Another great job here of getting the defense to commit before he throws his "signature" behind-the-back dime.
FEEL FOR THE GAME
Here we get a good look at Alperen Sengun getting fed in the post. At first, notice how Sengun battles to create positioning. It's the little things that stand out, as you can tell he's thinking ahead. Once Sengun gets fed in the post, he immediately gets his head around to survey the defense. While the dribble to the side by Alperen might not look like much, it's crucial to let this play develop. That dribble allows Sengun two things. It first improves the angle for the following pass he makes but it also invites the help defender to come over and double him. Sengun knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball, but he knows he needs to make the defender bite so he waits for someone else to make the mistake for him.
Personally, this has actually been one of the more fascinating prospects I've gotten to watch so far this year. There are going to be plenty of evaluators and scouts that are going to be worried about the lack of explosiveness that Alperen Sengun might have but that's not everything in the basketball world. The skillset that the 6'10" Sengun has for an 18-year-old is flat-out astonishing. He's already seeing the game at such an impressive level and has a variety of tools in his arsenal that would make him an intriguing addition for any NBA franchise. Sengun will likely have his name floating around as a potential late first-round selection but it wouldn't surprise me if his name continues to creep up some draft boards. Sure, there's going to be a learning curve for the young big man when it comes to going from the Turkish League to the NBA, but that's what you expect with most soon-to-be 19-year-olds. If some NBA team with a strong developmental staff gets their hands on Sengun, they could be in for a big payoff.