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Houston, We Have A Superstar

The City Of Houston Might Have Just Found Their Next Great Center

The Rockets franchise was built off the careers of strong, defensive big men. Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, and, of course, Hakeem Olajuwon all come to mind when we say this. But now, those players don't really exist/thrive anymore. The best defenders are guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis, guys who can go toe-to-toe with any position of the five and shut them down on a nightly basis. 

This new superstar doesn't do that. This new player is nearly the opposite, playing more similarly to the modern big man who can help facilitate the floor, like Nikola Jokic. The new era of players has come, where it is not the traditional big man dominating the paint defensively and guys only guarding their position on the court. The new era of players is built around guys like him, who can control the floor and the pace of the game, regardless of position.

This player? Alperen Sengün.

Does Sengün Really Warrant Superstar Status?

To true game fans, Sengün has been on your radar for quite some time. Around the same time that he was drafted, Nikola Jokic started dominating the NBA. With his ball-dominant, floor-general approach to the position, Jokic quickly revolutionized the game and changed how it was played. Around this time, this Turkish youngster started gaining immediate similarities to the Serbian big man.

Aside from being European big men, the two share an incredibly similar play style. This style is new to the NBA and doesn't have a true answer yet. This offensive style runs through the big man, allowing him to make passes at will and conduct traffic as needed. The center will work it from the top of the key, seeing over defenders and reading the defense. This innate skill is what makes Jokic so incredible and what makes Sengün so scary. 

Sengün recently had his superstar introduction party. Against the Spurs and Victor Wembanyama, Sengün scored 45 points on 19/32 shooting, 16 rebounds, and five steals. While only totaling three assists, it's because Sengün played the Spurs to what they'd give him, and last night, they were giving him the open shot. Sengün dominated one of the best young defenders in the NBA and put the entire world on notice, not just the true fans. 

But the question should be asked, do we need to fear the Rockets?

The West Should Keep Their Eyes On Houston

The eyes of every team in the Western Conference are on the Thunder, Spurs, and Kings. Young teams who are building around superstars and will compete in the future. But with everyone's back turned to them, the Rockets are quietly building down in Houston. Behind the young core of Sengün, Amen Thompson, and Jalen Green, the Rockets are a team that could develop incredibly well in the future. Mix in young players with high ceilings, like Cam Whitmore and Tari Eason, with established veterans, like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks, and the Rockets have a formula for future success.

I slammed the Rockets for signing these two in the offseason, but it worked well for them. VanVleet has been the game manager for this team and averaged 16 points with eight assists in that role, helping the young guys develop. Brooks has pestered opponents' best players every night and has been the lifeblood of this Houston team. While the Rockets are seven games below .500 right now, they were 38 games below .500 at the end of last season, and it is only up from here.

This Is Why You Fear Sengün

Right now, VanVleet is running the operations for the Rockets. But soon, Sengün will take it over. The Rockets replicate what the Nuggets did with Jokic and build around him, Giving Sengün scorers to get the ball to and shooters to bail him out when he is in trouble with the young core the Rockets have, which will only get better as they continue to play together. It is scary to imagine what the Rockets will be capable of in a few years.

Sengün is young, but he will prosper in Houston with the proper resources. Right now, he is averaging 21 points, nine rebounds, and five assists per game. He isn't quite as prolific a passer as Jokic is, but he is on his way there. If given the time and continue to have the Rockets' support in building his team, the Rockets will be a force to be reckoned with, and it will be behind their newest superstar: Alperen Sengün.



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