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Kings Pulse: 2021 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles – Alperen Sengun and Kai Jones

We continue our draft profiles with two polarizing and talented bigs in Turkish star Alphren Sengun and Bahamian big Kai Jones. Given the massive question marks surrounding both Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley this offseason, do the Kings need to prioritize big men in the draft?

Our review of 2021 NBA Draft prospects continues with two polarizing and talented big men; Turkish star Alphren Sengun, an incredibly productive low-post scorer, and Bahamian freak Kai Jones (by way of Texas), a hyper-athletic if raw combo-big.

Just based on that introduction, neither may seem like new-era lottery picks, but both players offer real upside for a Sacramento Kings squad that could really use some upside in the front court. With Richaun Holmes entering unrestricted free agency and the future of Marvin Bagley a complete unknown at this point, the only other bigs on the books for next year are Damian Jones and Chimezie Metu (who are almost certainly on non-guarenteed contracts). Are either of Sengun or Jones - completely different prospects in terms of play style, athleticism, and area of impact - good fits for Sacramento?

Sengun is one of the youngest players in the draft class, and won MVP of the Turkish Basketball Super League at just 18 years old. He was historically productive this season, averaging 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 64.6% from the field and 81.2% from the line. While much of his offense comes from his excellent footwork, touch, and skill around the basket, he's rocketed up public draft boards in recent weeks due to his basketball instincts and improvements on the perimeter. He also showed true toughness and physicality in every game, battling around the basket against grown men every night.

Kai Jones is very much an opposite player than Sengun, and plays every moment he's on the court at 100 MPH. The 6'11 Bahamian big spent the last two years at Texas, and averaged 8.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks in just 22.8 minutes per game this season (stuck in a bit of a logjam with other potential draftees in Greg Brown and Jericho Sims). While Jones is certainly a raw player (having only started playing organized basketball at 15 years old), he does showcase moments of sharp defensive instincts and footwork that are much more prevalent than many in the "project player" archetype. Texas used him as a perimeter player on both ends of the court, and he had some fantastic defensive moments where he contained future NBA initiators such as Cade Cunningham and Jared Butler. Jones also hit 38.2% from deep this year, albeit on low numbers (13 of 34 overall), but the flashes - both as a catch-and-shoot big, and as something more - are there in every game.

In this pod, we discuss:

  • What we need to see from a big man prospect to consider them in the lottery
  • Sengun's improvements on the perimeter - could he be a high-usage offensive player in the NBA?
  • How impressive it was for Sengun, at just 18 years old, to win the league MVP
  • Sengun's defensive question marks
  • Jones' defensive upside - can he fulfill the promise Willie Cauley-Stein never did?
  • Is Jones' offensive game real?
  • Which of the two we'd prefer in Sacramento

There's a strong case to be made for both of these players, especially considering Sacramento's massive hole in the middle. But if the Kings are determined to compete for the playoffs this year, adding a rookie big and expecting big minutes immediately seems unlikely.

What are your armchair scout opinions on Sengun and Jones? Do either make sense for Sacramento? Let us know in the comments!

The Kings Pulse podcast is available on all major listening platforms.

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kgdobter
June 15, 2021 7:13 pm

“How impressive it was for Sengun, at just 18 years old, to win the league MVP.” Didn’t we miss out on a Euro MVP a few years ago? Just saying.

SPTSJUNKIE
June 18, 2021 11:24 am
Reply to  kgdobter

Realize I am very late to this, but FWIW, while I think I am pretty close to Bryant on Sengun in terms of draft ranking (sounded like Brendan had him a few of spots lower on the pod), I do think you are making a legitimately real point.

In terms of need, there are other players I would like for the Kings. But Sengun to me is in a tier above Kai Jones and I would rather have the Kings draft him. And I think part of that is this is like a poor man’s Doncic situation.

Sengun is not Doncic by a long-shot. And there are some very legitimate questions about him they raised on the podcast, especially with his defense. We just saw the Suns kill the Nuggets with P&R and Jokic is taller, longer, and has better lateral quickness than Sengun.

However, Sengun also used skill (not just brute strength against smaller players) to win MVP of a highly-respected FIBA league against grown men/veterans at 18 years old. I feel like we are going to nitpick him and all of the reasons parts of his game may not translate for another 1.5 months. And then by the end of the season when he’s putting up 15-10-4 games on 60% shooting, people will be amazed we didn’t just embrace the highly skilled, high basketball IQ, high impact player who won MVP of a league that’s better than the NCAA.

I respect that some lottery teams that are desperate for star talent who will probably take a big swing on a players like the Johnsons before Sengun. But if he does go in that 12-15 range, I think in 4-5 years we may look back and see 6-7 players drafted ahead of him that are not performing close to the same level.

reydarly
June 15, 2021 9:02 pm

I’m personally starting to lean Moses Moody in our current range (praying for lotto luck). His game is so smooth.

But I’m open to drafting anyone that has at least rotational talent at this point so we at least have tradable assets. If they are better than that and can fix this team’s give a f***, that’s a plus.

kings4ever
June 16, 2021 12:04 pm
Reply to  reydarly

Moses Moody is boring and terrible. There is nothing special about him. Lou King is better. We would be wasting on our pick on a player of such modest means. By contrast Alphren Sengun is a special player, not that you would know it from the tone and tenor of this podcast, with all the waffling and equivocation and fence sitting.

You cannot say in one breath Alphren is “ridiculously skilled” then dismiss him at #9 in the next unless you just want to cover all your bases regardless how his future plays out. Alphren made 70% TS% and one of the podcasters said “there is reason for optimism….”. Really you think?

65% FGs for context would be 2nd in NBA behind Gobert and ahead of Holmes. So despite his gaudy production, Alphren could have been more selfish offensively given his effeciency. Luka the Wonder Boy shot 55% TS% in Euros compared to Alphren 70% TS%.

While I concur lateral mobility is a challenge for Alphren, 18 years old, it is not remotely a deal breaker. The kid has good instincts and anticipation, funnels drivers into his swat zone, closes out well. His issue defensively – besides moving laterally – is he does not respect his opponent and he is too upright. The first issue will be resolved against better competition and the second with proper coaching.

Alphren projects as an elite rebounder too. He has great hands, carves out position well w/o fouling and anticipates where to be strong or weak side. He does his work early, unlike someone like Marvin who has NO clue where the ball might bounce. He also welcomes contact unlike Marvin, who is adverse to physicality.

Dismissing Alphren bc you think he is going to be a trainwreck on D is weak sauce, and does not consider what he can bring to you on the boards. Do you know who also projected as a bad defender and was in the running for league MVP. His name rhymes with hookah. The Kings were 2nd to last in defense rebounding. Getting the ball is obviousy how you end a defense possession so his prowess on the boards can indirectly help you get more stops.

The other variable is Alphren projects as a PF as he gets into NBA shape. His size is in the ballpark of a Blake Griffin or a Danillo Gallinari, PFs. Do you know Luka was a point forward before moving to PG in the NBA. Alphren plays C because he is the biggest guy on the floor in his league but when he makes the transition to the Big Show I can see him moving down a position like Luka did.

I concur Kai Jones has too much wasted motion. I anticipate he is going to get into frequent foul trouble with his aggression. And while Jones will get more rebounds above the rim, catch more lobs and beat more opponents in transition, and play with a contagious ferocity and joyousness, I think Alphren is the superior rebounder. Rebounds are about positioning and doing your work early more than hops.

Anyway Alphren should be in the conversation for Top 5, and may go ahead of our pick between 6-8 if we do end up at #9. In this event Jones is a good consolation though I want to look more at Kessler Edwards and EJ Onu, if not with our pick than adding them later in a draft day trade. Edwards is better than the overhyped scrubs (Wagner, Barnes, Williams) high on most draft boards. He reminds me little of PG3, another guy I projected stardom for from a relatively small school.

eddie41
June 16, 2021 12:22 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

I think his team’s defensive scheme in pnr was to put him in drop coverage. Not sure if that was because of the coach’s preference or personnel limitations.

WizsSox
June 16, 2021 12:35 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

Dunno about all the takes here, but I do have a soft spot for Sengun as well. Of the guys in this range, feels like the best chance to break out into something bigger/star like, while still maintaining a pretty high floor.

Last edited 1 month ago by WizsSox
Hamlet1989
June 17, 2021 7:23 am
Reply to  kings4ever

Moody can shoot from anywhere. Sengun is a bust in the NBA. Your rants are way too long.

AnybodyButBagley
June 15, 2021 10:01 pm

A real team figures out how to keep Holmes around and drafts the best basketball player available regardless of position.

Milkman
June 15, 2021 11:31 pm

If Sengun is the next Luis Scola that’s worth a 9-10th pick. Given the current situation I have my “Bigs Blinders” on so I also like Neemias Queta and Luka Garza.
And Yves Pons is worth a 2nd rounder.

RAP87
June 16, 2021 12:23 am

Alperen Sengun! I’ve been beating this drum for the last month now. Unless we move up in the draft then draft one of the top 5 prospect, but if we stay in the 9-12th range then its Sengun for me. Wouldn’t oppose if it would be Giddy as well..

Hobby916
June 16, 2021 8:38 am
Reply to  RAP87

I also like Vrenz Bleijenbergh. He has some potential and is definitely worth a look. Maybe not top 10, but he could make a big impact in a couple years.

murraytant
June 16, 2021 4:30 pm
Reply to  Hobby916

second round- he is all over draft boards- sometimes not even in top 60

Hobby916
June 16, 2021 6:28 pm
Reply to  murraytant

Yeah, he doesn’t se to have much tape and is mostly unknown. What else are the kings going to do with a 2nd round pick? Draft some more guys that have low ceilings and be out of the league in a couple years? I say they go for it and try to change things up for once.

BestHyperboleEver
June 17, 2021 8:07 am
Reply to  Hobby916

Eh, he’s unknown to us. He isn’t unknown to NBA scouting departments.

eddie41
June 17, 2021 9:13 am

There’s BHE. I’ve been looking for your thoughts about Sengun. Even if you haven’t watched much of the Turkish league.

andy_sims
June 16, 2021 8:25 am

Crazy morning: CP3 & Kawhi out for game five, and SVG bounced out of New Orleans after a year.

HongKongKingsFan
June 16, 2021 8:27 am
Reply to  andy_sims

yes….those news deserves a new post to talk about…

Regarding SVG, he did signed a 4 yrs contract with the Pels…..but their FO decided to move on from him…I don’t get it at all………

HongKongKingsFan
June 16, 2021 8:37 am

What a crazy day, Scott Brooks is also leaving the Wizards…….

I wonder how many head coach vacancies on the market right now…

-Pels, Pacers, Wizards, Boston, Portland, Magic

andy_sims
June 16, 2021 8:39 am

We are fortunate that we’re at no risk of hiring one of them.

HongKongKingsFan
June 16, 2021 8:47 am
Reply to  andy_sims

Of course, as we already got the best coach….

Also, we need consistency………(Quoted from McNair)

I can ensure that in an extreme scenario, even if Pop or Quin Snyder got fired…..we would be still sticking with Luke Walton……..

andy_sims
June 16, 2021 10:12 am
Reply to  andy_sims

Yeesh, Kawhi may have a torn ACL. Looks like he may opt into that final year with the Clips after all.

eddie41
June 16, 2021 10:04 am

I don’t think Kai Jones is a lottery draft pick. Seems very raw. I think I saw a clip of the prospect everyone thinks is too boring to consider, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, ripping by him baseline and throwing it down. By the way, Robinson-Earl looked good in that game against Baylor. Since you’re analyzing Davion Mitchell next …

eddie41
June 16, 2021 10:15 am

I like Sengun as a prospect. His floor seems decent as an energy big off the bench, which the Kings could use. What I saw in the highlights that give me reason to believe he has a higher ceiling is several things (1) his IQ, he makes really quick decisions and quick ball fakes, lots of counter-moves and sees the floor. (2) he’s got some game to him that throws Tyler Hansborough comparisons out the window. Some handles and passing ability. (3) tough player who enjoys the battle. That being said, the MVP award does not necessarily mean much for the nba. Luke Garza won the ncaa MVP and no one is talking about him. Ex Gonzaga player Petrusev won in in the Adriatic League. What does that tell us? Not entirely sure.

WizsSox
June 16, 2021 12:46 pm
Reply to  eddie41

Agree with a lot of this. Don’t know if winning the actual award means anything, but being at that type of level in that league means a bit more to me. Turkish league is better competition than NCAA or Adriatic league per all accounts of people who might know. Plus Sengun accomplished this feat at 18, where as those other guys were 21-22.

Doesn’t guarantee jack, but makes a bit more meaningful to me.

eddie41
June 16, 2021 12:56 pm
Reply to  WizsSox

I’m getting vibes of a bulkier Gordon Hayward while at Butler.

WizsSox
June 16, 2021 12:59 pm
Reply to  eddie41

Just watching Petrusev highlights…intriguing. Thanks for pointing out.

He’s the Anti-Bagley…zero wasted motion or dribbles after receiving in PnR.

Last edited 1 month ago by WizsSox
eddie41
June 16, 2021 1:08 pm
Reply to  WizsSox

I haven’t watched much of Petrusev but his game looks similar to Metu. The Gordon Hayward vibes I actually got from watching Sengun.

WizsSox
June 16, 2021 3:03 pm
Reply to  eddie41

Ya I know…was just commenting about Petrusev. Metu interesting comp in terms of build and style. Like Petrusevs upside more…as we do with anyone where we only watch 10 min highlight clips 😉

eddie41
June 17, 2021 9:35 am
Reply to  eddie41

It’s not a comp. obviously Hayward was a wing. It’s more about quickness and fluidity while doing advanced moves.

SPTSJUNKIE
June 18, 2021 11:32 am
Reply to  eddie41

I actually agree with 90% of what you said and think your positive points about Sengun are true. At a minimum, seems like he should be a smarter, mildly passable defensive version of Enes Kanter.

I do think you underestimate the MVP accolades a bit thought. While I agree that awards are not the end all, be all – I do think there is a difference between an 18 year old winning MVP in a highly respected, talented overseas league. And a 22 year old senior winning MVP of a league where he is basically at the top of the age / experience range. Petrusev sort of splits the difference. The league and award have put him on the radar as a 2nd round pick after a “meh” stint in college; however, he is also ~2-3 years older (21 v. 18) doing the same.

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