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2021 NBA Draft scouting report: Alperen Sengun

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An old school big with a refined touch...

Alperen Sengun of Besiktas Icrypex... Photo by Elif Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Peachtree Hoops staff will take a deeper look at several prospects ahead of the 2021 NBA Draft. Today, we examine international prospect Alperen Sengun. For a look at the full list of prospects we have written reports on so far, click here.


Many of today’s international bigs looking to be selected in the NBA Draft experiment beyond the perimeter, with the three-point shot in today’s NBA a vital aspect of the game. Regardless of the percentage, young bigs are trying to prove they can add this to their repertoire, or something for teams to buy into.

Enter today’s prospect, Alperen Sengun.

The 18 year old Sengun is a Turkish PF/C who plies his trade with Besiktas in Turkey. Standing at 6 foot 9, Sengun averaged 18.9 points per game on 63% from the field on 10.7 attempts per game, 20% from three on 0.9 attempts per game, 79% from the line on 6.5 attempts, 69% true shooting percentage, 64% effective field goal percentage, 8.7 rebounds, 3.6 offensive rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.3 steals, 2.4 turnovers and 3.1 fouls in an average of 28 minutes per game in 37 games, per RealGM.

Those numbers saw Sengun named as the Turkish League’s MVP, which at 18 years old is extremely impressive, incredible really. Quite a bit catches the eyes and it’s the sheer level of production and efficiency. There’s a very good reason for that and it’s related to the three-pointers shot we just mentioned. Sengun stays within his lane — he doesn’t hoist a very high volume threes or long range jumpers.

Instead, Sengun excels inside the paint and around the rim. What he does, he does very well and doesn’t venture outside of that lane.

So, with that, let’s dive into the film and see what’s what (Sengun wears the number 23).

Offense/scoring

Sengun doesn’t offer a ton of variance in terms of an inside-out game right now but what he does do, he does it very well.

Sengun is very good when it comes to shedding defenders/working himself into scoring opportunities with spins and pivots. His footwork is exceptional and the ease he can work himself into to score is very easy on the eyes at times.

In the post, Sengun spins towards the baseline, backs his way back towards the middle of the paint before spinning back towards the baseline and finishing with his weaker left-hand:

Here, you can see Sengun fight for position inside, eventually receiving the ball on the block. Sengun then backs down, spins towards the baseline, spins back inside, raises the ball to bait the defender and then spins back from whence he came and draws the foul and free throws at the rim:

On the short drive from the free throw line, Sengun briefly seems to feign right before spinning to the left and, again, his movement and sweet foot-work gets the defender off of his feet and Sengun’s task at the rim is simple as he hooks the ball home:

On the catch at the elbow, Sengun drives, halts, jinks left before pivoting back to his right and opens the space for the sweeping hook:

This time, Sengun establishes deep position inside, receives the ball, spins to his left before going back to his right before drawing the foul and free throws on the sweeping hook:

In the post, Sengun finds resistance and his dribble is ended but is able to pivot his way beautifully to open an opportunity as he frees himself from the defender:

On the pick-and-roll this time, Sengun receives the ball at the free throw and is somehow able to fluidly spin right, then left to finish at the rim, plus the foul:

On the baseline, an easy spin for Sengun sheds his defender, who commits the foul as Sengun blows by and finishes with the dunk:

Here, Sengun receives the ball deep in the paint before a quick spin and duck-in gives him an easy layup at the rim:

Sengun is capable of doing more damage inside than just spins and pivots.

In the post, Sengun backs down baseline and gets to the opposite side of the rim before carving out the space for an easy layup at the rim:

Here, Sengun goes to set the screen which is rejected but receives the ball at the free throw line and is free to attack the rim, finishing over the defense with the thrunk:

This time on the pick-and-roll, Sengun’s screen is used this time. As he rolls, he receives the ball and does well to adjust and finish at the rim despite the contact:

This time Sengun slips the screen and catches and finishes in mid-air as he’s found on the lob:

A more athletic finish on the alley-oop this time from Sengun as he sets the screen and rolls in behind the defense:

In transition, Sengun sets the drag screen before setting a re-screen after nothing comes of it, receives the ball, manages to shed the defender as he raises the ball above his head before putting it on the floor and finishing at the rim with the dunk:

Sengun also averaged over three offensive rebounds per game and was able to contribute second chance points from these second opportunities.

Underneath the rim, Sengun is able to establish position and off of the missed jumpshot he’s able to boxout his man and score at the rim off of the offensive rebound:

In the post, Sengun fires the ball out to the perimeter. As the shot goes up from the outside, Sengun slips in front of his man and is in place to take the miss and score the second chance opportunity:

Again in the post, Sengun fires the ball out to the perimeter where the extra pass is made. On the resulting shot from the corner, Sengun works his way into position and grabs the offensive rebound in the crowd before showing a couple of fakes before drawing the foul and free throws on the shot attempt:

You’ve seen a number of clips already of Sengun drawing fouls and free throws, a prominent feature of his game.

We won’t show a ton more because it’s been fairly frequent so in other areas of his game, but in the post on this possession, Sengun carves out space on the baseline and draws the foul and free throws on the shot attempt:

On a rarer drive from the perimeter, Sengun shows decent quickness and draws the foul on the attempt at the rim after the drive to get there:

Passing/playmaking

Sengun’s ability to spot and make passes is very strong. He’s obviously not creating off of the dribble but is able to find his teammates for opportunities in a few ways, averaging 2.7 assists per game.

A lot of Sengun’s creation for teammates comes, as you might imagine, from the paint/post, where he can obviously draw a crowd.

On the block, Sengun fires a no-look pass to the three-point line, catching the perimeter defender napping and leading to a three-point opportunity (which Sengun cleans up on the offensive glass to score the second chance):

In the paint, Sengun draws a crowd and as soon as he is able to, fires a pass out to the corner for the assist on the three-pointer:

On the cut this time, Sengun receives the ball on the move in the paint, draws the defense’s attention and makes the short pass to his open teammate in front of the rim for the dunk:

On a drive and quick pass back into the paint to Sengun, has three/four defenders looking and facing in his direction. Sengun doesn’t waste a ton of time kicking the ball back out to the perimeter and picks up the assist on the made three:

On a drive from a teammate, Sengun makes the cut to the paint where he is delivered the ball. As Sengun turns his back to the basket with the defender on his back, he fires out a pass to the perimeter and collects another assist on a made three:

It’s not just in the paint/post where Sengun is capable of spotting/finding his teammates.

After coming up with a steal, Sengun brings the ball up the floor, turns his back to the basket in the paint as he appears to go into the post but whips out a lovely behind-the-back pass to his teammate at the rim for the fantastic assist:

On a loose-ball after the rebound, Sengun comes up with possession and pushes in transition and makes the correct play as he charges down the middle of the floor and finds his teammate in the corner for the assist on the three:

On the pick-and-roll, Sengun receives the ball on the roll and drives into the paint, runs into the defense and kicks the ball out to the corner for the three-point attempt:

Not a ton else to say here in this spot but noteworthy that Sengun has good basketball IQ/passing as part of his game at this age.

Defense

Sengun’s defensive numbers are quite impressive: 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals are solid contributions but there’s obviously much more to it than just those numbers...

But first, let’s look at some blocks, always a good place to begin.

To start off, Sengun covers for his teammate as he rotates to produce a great block the shot at the rim coming off of the pick-and-roll:

Again, Sengun is on hand to protect the rim, blocking the shot at the rim on a cut:

On the drive to the rim after the screen, Sengun produces a great block as he gets his fingertips on the attempt near the rim:

Sengun can protect the rim with more than his ability to block, able to use his size to vertically challenge shots too.

In the post, Sengun provides good defense and a good challenge to help prevent the basket:

On this possession, Sengun produces back-to-back contests at the rim, one to force the pass in transition and another contest the shot itself with Sengun coming out on top on both occasions:

In the post this time, Sengun offers strong resistance and helps force an airball on the shot attempt:

There were, however, moments where Sengun left a bit to be desired defensively. Often there were times Sengun was beaten on drives, both in pick-and-roll and from his pwn position, which lends some concerns going forward.

Here, Sengun is beaten on the short drive from the post for the basket at the rim:

On the pick-and-roll switch, the offensive player gets the step on Sengun on the drive and he is unable to prevent the basket at the rim:

On another switch, Sengun is absolutely blitzed on the perimeter as he attempts to go for the reach as the drive occurs and is left for dead:

Again on the drive, Sengun seems to lunge forward as the drive begins and the result is Sengun being left for dead on the drive and commits a poor foul en-route to the basket:

In the post, Sengun is bodied a bit as the space is cleared and the basket is scored at the rim:

Again in the post, Sengun finds it difficult to absorb the contact and ends up committing the foul:

In closing...

Sengun I think is one the most skilled players heading into the draft, and there’s understandably a fair amount of buzz surrounding him.

Offensively, he is a nightmare inside. His array of spins and pivots are exceptional, ripped defenses apart all season and he got to the free throw line with ease. He’s not going to jump out of the gym but Sengun shows a solid level of athleticism but doesn’t rely on it to produce offensively. I’d like to see him in more pick-and-roll but he is very effective in isolation and has good presence of mind and the ability to make passes out of the paint/post, and I’m sure this will become more prominent in pick-and-roll situations too.

There may not be a ton of development so far in perimeter shooting — heck, even mid-range — but there are a number of players who didn’t begin their NBA careers as outside shooters at all who learned to add it to their game. Examples like Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol and even the Hawks’ own John Collins come to mind as players who did not enter the league as sharpshooting bigs.

What he’s been able to achieve and show offensively as an 18 year old (turning 19 just prior to the draft) has been nothing short of incredible — there is significant upside to buy into here.

Defensively, there’s a bit of scope for improvement but enough to like with Sengun as a help defender with good instinct to both block shots and contribute with some steals, though I’d expect perhaps this aspect won’t immediately translate into the NBA.

I’d be concerned that Sengun would be a liability on the defensive end and would probably be rinsed in pick-and-roll scenarios. He’s not so cumbersome in movement that it’s drop coverage or nothing but he’s not elite with his movement, so there is an issue there.

Despite those defensive concerns, The Athletic’s John Hollinger is very high on Sengun, projecting Sengun to be the fourth best player in the 2021 class with this to say about the Turkish big.

As I noted a few months ago, Sengun is the pearl of a strong international class, and he is still flying somewhat under the radar despite winning the MVP of the Turkish League. That league is probably the second-best in Europe right now after Spain’s, and the history says that when a teenager — Sengun turns 19 in July — crushes a good overseas league like that, the fail rate is basically nil.

There are legitimate concerns about Sengun defensively, that he might be the type of guy who gets run off the floor in a playoff series. Overall, I would profile him as similar to Kevin Love — more of a “4.5” than a true five and somebody whose offense will need to make up for non-elite rim protection and mobility. Nonetheless, his offensive skill set is crazy good for a player his age. He has ball skills, passing ability, a good shooting stroke that projects to 3-point range and a dizzying array of spins, pivots and finishes on the low block.

I’ll be surprised if he isn’t able to rack up double-doubles relatively early in his career; it’s the defensive question in the modern game that keeps him out of my top three, and even then I still wonder if I have him too low. A lot of not-very-athletic bigs with average tools but advanced feel have ended up being far better defenders than initially projected — Marc Gasol obviously comes to mind for me — and Sengun could be another example. I wouldn’t just write him off at this end of the floor.

Obviously it’s early to be thinking about ‘being run off of the floor in a playoff series’ defensively but seeing as the playoffs are nearing their conclusion, that’s always a topic this time of year. I certainly agree with Hollinger that Sengun could be that good offensively that it might not matter in the regular season and it’s not as if he is an absolute write-off defensively, as Hollinger notes.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie isn’t quite as high on Sengun as Hollinger but still projects Sengun as a lottery selection at 12th overall.

The player: Sengun won the Turkish League MVP after putting up one of the most productive teenage seasons in recent European basketball history. As our John Hollinger outlined a while ago, the numbers Sengun is putting up in Turkey are dominant and preposterous at the same time. He finished third in the league in scoring, fourth in rebounding, and second in blocks. As John pointed out, Sengun’s PER would be the highest of the decade, and his 30.3 PER leads the Turkish league. From a scouting perspective, he can finish inside, has a great nose for the basket and a great feel for getting separation. His hands are elite. The only problem comes on defense, where I’m a bit skeptical until he proves he can man up in space.

The fit: The Spurs have one of the best international scouting staffs in the NBA, so are familiar with Sengun even in this weird season of interrupted scouting overseas. From a roster perspective, the team’s bigs aren’t particularly adept offensively. Jakob Poeltl could use more of an offensive-minded partner inside from a matchup perspective, and Sengun’s hands, basketball IQ and finishing ability on the offensive end are about as big a departure from Poeltl as you’ll find.

Vecenie outlines the extremely productive season Sengun has enjoyed as a teenager still and, like Hollinger, has some question marks about Sengun defensively.

ESPN has Sengun ranked 14th on their ‘Best Available’ rankings with ESPN’s Jonathan Givony adding this when it comes to Sengun.

Strengths

- Arguably the most productive 18-year old in high-level European basketball history. Led his team to the semifinals of the Turkish league playoffs, averaging 18.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals in 28 minutes per game, shooting 67% from the field and 81% from the free throw line.

- Dominant interior scorer with preternatural instincts crashing the glass, creating for teammates, getting in passing lanes, and protecting the rim. Nimble, flexible and quick off his feet with outstanding footwork, hands and touch.

- Started to show more perimeter skill as the season moved on in terms of knocking down jump shots and creating for others. Should continue to modernize his game as his career moves forward, as he’s one of the youngest players projected to be drafted, not turning 19 until late July.

Improvement areas

- Faces significant question marks on the defensive end. Maybe too slow-footed to defend power forwards, and doesn’t have great size or length for a center. Looks apathetic at times on this end of the floor, struggling to cover ground in space in pick-and-roll situations.

- Career 23% 3-point shooter on 227 attempts in 201 games according to our database. Only went 7-of-36 in 43 games this season. Shooting indicators are positive but will clearly take him time to transition his game to the NBA 3-point line, which will be imperative for him to reach his full potential.

- Comes from a situation where he was the focal point of his club and was clearly being showcased for the purposes of receiving a buyout. Turkish league was not as competitive this season as in the past, causing some to question his production.

Projected role: Stat-stuffing traditional big man

Givony, like Hollinger and Vecenie, highlights Sengun’s productivity and concerns defensively. His last point about Besiktas ‘showcasing’ Sengun for a buyout is an interesting, meaning we got to see Sengun in a more prominent role than perhaps we would have normally.

ESPN’s Mike Schmitz wrote about Sengun at length in late-April and there’s a lot to note in that piece which I would recommend checking out (between Sengun wanting to emulate Nikola Jokic, his own knack for rebounding, experimenting with threes in practice and more) — too much to block paste but certainly worth a read.

Here’s what Schmitz had to say on Sengun defensively though, since we’re on the topic:

The biggest question Sengun faces is just how he’ll defend at the NBA level. He’s slow-footed on the perimeter and doesn’t have the natural size to bang with the league’s top-end NBA centers. He struggles to contain the ball in pick-and-roll. Players such as Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, and Nikola Vucevic are all around 7 feet tall with big bodies and wingspans longer than 7-foot-2, allowing them to impact the ball at the rim due to their sheer size. Sengun’s lack of interior size and speed guarding the perimeter might limit him to a backup role in the NBA, at least early in his career. With his physical traits the margin for error is thin, so becoming more sound with his technique, discipline and fundamentals is key.

With that said, you can’t ignore Sengun’s remarkable instincts on the defensive end of the floor. Similar to Jokic, he has quick hands and does a tremendous job reading the eyes of the ball handler when defending pick-and-rolls, registering 1.9 steals per 40 minutes. His anticipation is elite, and he’s a risk taker on the floor, for better or for worse. He also has really good timing for blocks, covering ground quite impressively.

So, although how he fits defensively in the NBA remains a question, he has already shown instincts that are almost impossible to develop. While his physical shortcomings have him better suited for a bench role, as we’ve learned with players before him, we shouldn’t dismiss those instincts when evaluating whether or not he can survive defensively in the NBA.

Schmitz mentions Sengun’s position, which I haven’t talked about so far, which has been a combination of both power forward and center. The potential issue here, as Schmitz has alluded to, is that Sengun is not going to be able to bang with 5’s, and I’d be worried myself about his ability to stick with some of these small-ball fours on potential drive. Heck, I’d be worried about him even banging with some 4’s too.

This is what the Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor noted too in his mock draft (sliding Sengun at 12th overall):

What is his position defensively? His slow feet and lack of verticality and length hold him back, meaning he’ll need to learn to be a positional defender.

Schmitz is a bit more optimistic it seems when it comes to Sengun being able to make an impact defensively based on his instincts though his concerns that his defense may limit him to a backup role are valid.

The NBA has seen with Lou Williams over the years that just because someone comes off of the bench doesn’t mean they can’t be extremely impactful. Whether that becomes Sengun’s fate remains to be seen.

Finally, Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo mocks Sengun at 12th overall with this to say:

While Sengün is one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft for good reason—he’s a low post-centric scorer entering a league where only the most efficient bigs receive meaningful usage—what he did in Turkey this season as an 18-year-old screams special. To average nearly 19 points per game on 63% shooting at any level, particularly at his age, is an outlier level of play. Sengün clearly has NBA-caliber talent. He relies on deep post catches soft hands and strong finishing skills to rack up points in the paint, and he’s an active rebounder who makes the most of average physical tools. His upside lies in his potential as a passer and jump shooter, given he doesn’t have great size or length for a center and may be a liability on defense, particularly in the playoffs. But there’s a pretty good chance he’s a productive NBA player in some capacity, and if a team can maximize his strengths, it’s not out of the question that Sengün continues on his unusual trajectory.

A lot of what we’ve seen already but it’s good for it to be reinforced. What Woo notes, though, that hasn’t been noted so far here is that the clear upside is that Sengun’s upside is as a jump shooter. My one concern would be removing him too far from where he is effective to give him jumpshots per game, so I’d be mindful of the volume teams choose to introduce when it comes to Sengun expanding his range.

Sengun seems destined for a late-lottery selection but can he rise as high as Hollinger projects and comfortably rise into the top-10?

Stranger things have happened, and it’ll be fascinating to see where Sengun is selected.

For the Atlanta Hawks, their need for bigs is almost non-existent (depending on what happens with John Collins in restricted free agency) with Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari and Onyeka Okongwu under contract, as well as De’Andre Hunter’s capabilities to play power forward in small-ball lineups. Sengun is probably just not what the Hawks need right now, and is unlikely to be available when the Hawks do make their selection.

For the team that Sengun lands with however, it’s going to be a fascinating watch...