In each generation, a player revolutionizes the way their position is taught, scouted, and played. This generation’s game-changer is Nikola Jokić. Known as the “Joker,” he has combined the passing skills of former bigs Vlade Divac, Yao Ming, Bill Walton, and Arvydas Sabonis with the physical presence of Kevin McHale, Patrick Ewing, and Tim Duncan. But this article isn’t about Jokić; it’s about his protege, Alperen Şengün.
As the Houston Rockets’ third-year center and Turkish sensation, Şengün is part of a wave of European players making a mark in the NBA. He has already been dubbed “Baby Jokić” due to the similarities in his offensive play and passing abilities. Şengün made a name for himself as the MVP of the Turkish League in 2021, showcasing impressive stats and shooting splits. His style of play draws inspiration from Jokić, who he has publicly praised for his support and encouragement.
Similar to Jokić, Şengün excels at operating from the high post, utilizing his 6’11” frame to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. His impact on the Rockets’ offense and defense is evident in his statistics, indicating his promising future in the NBA. Additionally, his athletic ability, as evidenced by his dunks and blocks, sets him apart from Jokić during his early career.
When comparing their early career numbers, Şengün’s per-36 numbers slightly surpass Jokić’s, indicating the potential for him to be as good or perhaps better, making him a candidate for the best big man in the game. His recent performances, including a notable game against the Bulls, further demonstrate his ability to rise to the occasion and lead his team to victory.
Under the coaching of Ime Udoka, Şengün’s defense has improved, showcasing his willingness to adapt and grow. While he still has room for improvement, particularly in his three-point shooting, Şengün’s potential for growth and development is limitless. Like Jokić, Şengün belongs to a rare category of players whose potential is entirely in their own hands, indicating a promising future for the Turkish star.