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2021 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Alperen Sengun

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Sengun has scouts enamored, but is he the right pick for Memphis?

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NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

ALPEREN SENGUN, BIG, BESIKTAS (TURKEY)

  • 6’10”, 243 pounds (7’0.5” wingspan), 18 years old from Giresun, Turkey
  • Last season with Besiktas - 28.3 minutes per game, 19.2 points, 64.6% from the field, 19% on threes, 81.2% from the free throw line, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.7 blocks
  • ADVANCED STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon): True Shooting Percentage (68.5%), Free- Throw Attempt Rate (.612)
  • ADVANCED STATS TO IMPROVE: Three-Point Attempt Rate (.088)
  • AWARDS AND ACCOLADES: Turkish Junior League champion (2019), Turkish League MVP (2021)
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENTS: 9th overall (The Ringer), 8th overall (Tankathon), 14th overall (ESPN), 18th overall (Bleacher Report)

The NBA Draft is a young man’s game. While there are always a few elder statesmen who garner first-round consideration (Corey Kispert this year, for example), teenaged folks make up the bulk of premier prospects. Whether it’s justified or not, youthful candidates are valued ahead of their similarly skilled, older counterparts because they have more time to sprout before reaching their prime.

However, the Grizzlies have demonstrated through their recent draft selections that a player’s age is not a deterrent for them. Xavier Tillman, Brandon Clarke, and Desmond Bane each played at least three years of college basketball. As we know, all three turned out to be home runs for Zach Kleiman and company. But if the Grizzlies, for whatever reason, wanted to follow the status quo that younger is better, Alperen Sengun is quite the tantalizing spring chicken.

Sengun won’t turn 19 until July 25th, making him the fourth-youngest member in his class. In one season with Besiktas, he demonstrated a feel for the game well beyond his age and an incredibly diverse offensive skill set. Let’s get to know the Turkish sensation and delve into one of the more fascinating talents of the 2021 NBA Draft.

What He Does Well

Sengun flat-out dominated the Turkish competition as both a scorer and rebounder. He led the entire Turkish Super League in offensive rebounds per game at 4.1 and pulled down 5.2 per 36 minutes. This allowed him to be a constant threat to generate second-chance points and extra possessions for his team; he scored many of his second chance points off put-back dunks and tip-ins. Sengun has an uncanny nose for the ball and seemed to almost always be in the fight for boards.

Sengun’s post repertoire is the most polished of any prospect in this draft. He’s highly patient when operating down low and boasts a wide array of moves, including spins, fakes, and drop steps. When squinting hard enough, it’s easy to mistake Sengun for Nikola Jokic in the way he fakes defenders out of their shoes with fantastic footwork. Sengun also flashed potential as a playmaking hub in the post; he is an anticipatory facilitator who passed his teammates into open shots. Not to mention he ended his season with a solid assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.11.

An underrated skill of Sengun’s is his ability to play in the open court. He was an excellent catch-and-finish player who ran the floor harder than most and possessed great hands for a big. Sengun doesn’t shy away from contact, as evidenced by his penchant for throwing down poster dunks in transition. Although he’s not the greatest leaper by any means, Sengun’s long arms and relentless motor made him a deadly lob threat with a full head of steam.

All in all, there aren’t many blemishes in Sengun’s offensive game. He shot an otherworldly 64.6% from the field, for cripes sake. But, just like you and me, Sengun isn’t perfect.

Where He Can Improve

The three-point shooting craze has taken the NBA by storm over the past decade. Teams are prioritizing having floor spacers at all positions more than ever before. Ten years ago, it wouldn’t have mattered much to Sengun’s draft stock if he didn’t shoot the three at a high level. Nowadays? It’s arguably the defining hole in his game.

To be clear, Sengun isn’t necessarily a bad long-range shooter. He simply didn’t take many. Sengun let it fly from deep just 0.7 times per game last season and shot them at a putrid 19% clip. He was clearly out of his comfort zone when shooting threes, as most of them were low-shot-clock heaves. The exact reason for Sengun’s timidness from deep is unclear. Did his coaches pressure him into avoiding threes? Did Sengun not have the confidence to take and make them consistently? Nevertheless, with a stellar 81.2% free-throw percentage and promising jumpshot mechanics, there’s reason to be optimistic Sengun can develop his game outside the line someday. But at this juncture, he’s far away from torching opponents on the perimeter at the NBA level.

Additionally, Sengun has room for growth as a defender. His impressive 3.0 total stocks (steals and blocks) are a bit deceiving, considering he gambles far too often when away from the ball. He has a habit of prioritizing blocks and steals over defensive positioning. Sure, Sengun is a solid rim protector with a knack for timing, but only when he’s not hopelessly out of position.

Sengun’s on-ball defense wasn’t much better. As an undersized center at 6’10”, taller and bulkier behemoths exposed him in the post; seven-footers shot over the top of Sengun inside with little difficulty. And with a non-muscular build, many positional counterparts could nudge their way into the paint with a few dribbles. How Sengun will fare against the strength and height of NBA centers is a major question mark.

The Fit With The Grizzlies and Verdict

The Memphis Grizzlies already have four outstanding players at the power forward/center spots: Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas, Xavier Tillman, and Brandon Clarke. Assuming Jackson Jr. and Valanciunas are the opening-night starters, and Clarke and Tillman are the backups, where does that leave Sengun? On the bench. Barring a trade that guts the team’s frontline depth, it’s hard to imagine Sengun cracking the rotation with those four names in his path.

Plus, with Sengun’s persistent struggles as both a three-point shooter and defender, he doesn’t appear to fit the mold of recent Grizzlies draftees. A wing is what Memphis should hope to add to their squad in the draft, not a big. And not a big that projects to be a years-long project like Sengun. There are more proven and refined options that will address pertinent weaknesses of the Grizzlies at positions of need.

Sengun is a lottery-level prospect that boasts loads of upside. But his fit on the Memphis Grizzlies is questionable at best. Sengun would be better off with a rebuilding team where he can receive consistent touches and playing time.

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