Alperen Sengun

Southwest Notes: Sengun, Zion, Mavs, Lawson, Grizzlies

He hasn’t gotten the same sort of press this season as Rookie of the Year candidates Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren, but going up against Wembanyama on Tuesday, Rockets big man Alperen Sengun provided a reminder that there’s another young center on the rise in the Western Conference.

As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required) details, Sengun didn’t just get the best of Wembanyama on Tuesday — he dominated him, pouring in a career-best 45 points to go along with 16 rebounds and five steals, both personal season highs. After the game, he admitted that he was motivated to go up against the Spurs‘ young star, who went scoreless in the second half and had just 10 points on the night.

“I didn’t play that good last game against him, I can say,” Sengun said. “And I didn’t see that much double-teams. They just leave me one-on-one with Wemby. I just did what I do.
When you score, and score and score at some point, you get some emotion. It was great for me. He is so tall, he’s really tall, but he’s not that strong, yet. So, I was going at his chest and put him under the rim.”

Sengun, who is still just 21 years old (and younger than Holmgren), has taken his game to new heights in his third NBA season, averaging 21.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 32.4 minutes per game across 60 starts. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2024 offseason.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Asked on Tuesday if he could see himself participating in the NBA’s annual slam dunk contest at some point, Pelicans star Zion Williamson didn’t rule out the possibility. “I gotta do my part and make the All-Star game,” Williamson said with a smile (Twitter video link via Pelicans Film Room). “If I’m in the All-Star game, I’ll do the dunk contest. But if I’m not, not doing it.”
  • On Tuesday, for a third straight time, Luka Doncic had a triple-double and scored 37+ points in a game the Mavericks lost. It’s a troubling trend for the Mavs, who are running out of time to prove they’re better than they’ve shown as of late, according to Tim Cato of The Athletic and Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Dallas has – by far – the NBA’s worst defensive rating since the All-Star break, and Doncic isn’t sure how to reverse that trend. “I don’t know, honestly,” he said. “We know we got to fix it.”
  • Mavericks wing A.J. Lawson had a hard time playing it cool when he found out he was being promoted to the team’s standard roster on a new four-year contract that will guarantee him $1MM for the rest of this season, writes Eddie Sefko of “I was trying to keep my emotions down at the gym. I didn’t want anybody to see me super-excited or tear up or anything,” Lawson said. “But I got to the crib and I just said ‘Thank God.’ And I screamed off my balcony. Probably the whole uptown area heard it. It was a great feeling and definitely something I’m going to remember the rest of my life.”
  • It has been over a year since the Grizzlies announced on the same day (March 4, 2023) that Brandon Clarke had suffered a torn Achilles and that Ja Morant would be away from the team after a video on social media showed him brandishing a firearm in a Colorado nightclub. As Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes, the impact of those events carried over to 2023/24 and were factors in derailing the team’s season before it really got going.

Rockets’ Stone Discusses Adams Deal, Green, Deadline Talks

After the Rockets acquired Steven Adams a week before the trade deadline in a move with next season in mind, the front office had plenty of discussions about deals that would’ve helped the team more in the short term, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Houston kicked the tires on players like Kelly Olynyk, Andre Drummond, Jericho Sims, and Xavier Tillman, among others, but couldn’t find a trade that worked for both sides.

“We certainly weren’t going to do something that would hurt us on a going-forward basis,” general manager Rafael Stone said. “The moves we were the most excited about were moves where we thought that could help us in the short term and also the long term, the moves subsequent to (the trade for) Steven.
We were very excited about acquiring Steven. Subsequently, a lot of the ones we had long discussions about were moves that would have provided elements this year maybe that we don’t have, as well as stuff for the future.

“But they didn’t happen, and we’re fine with that. We like our group, and this gives everybody on our current roster an opportunity to shine.”

If the Rockets had wanted to make a more significant deal, it would’ve likely required them to part with a player from their young core: Alperen Sengun, Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, Tari Eason, Amen Thompson, or Cam Whitmore. But Stone said the team wasn’t looking to move on from any of those youngsters, adding that he and head coach Ime Udoka were in agreement on the deals they pursued and those they didn’t.

“We’re looking at the long term more so than anything,” Udoka said. “When you have that many young, talented players, you want to see what they become and not rush to judgment on anything.
As far as those guys, everyone’s going to check in when you have this amount of young talent. We’re trying to win. We’re in the development and winning stage at the same time, so people checked in. We knew they would. They are talented young guys, and we have some duplicated positions there. We like what we’re seeing from those guys and want to see what we are as a whole unit.”

Here are a few more of Stone’s most notable comments from Monday’s post-deadline media session:

On the acquisition of Adams:

“I think we got a really high-level basketball player. A guy who’s been a dominant rebounding force in the NBA for the last five, six years. One of the best defenders in the NBA. We obviously feel great with Alperen, but now we have two truly starter-level centers next year. Depth is extraordinarily important. On top of that, he’s a very different player and will be a good complement on and off the court for our group.”

On the long-term fit of Jalen Green, whose name popped up in some predeadline rumors:

“Jalen has been and continues to be, on paper, a great fit with us. He has a skill set that isn’t really replicated on our roster. My expectation of him – and he knows this, and I think he echoed in his postgame comments – my expectation is that the defense, which has gotten better, is still going to get a lot better. That the physicality and the efficiency are all going to get better. He needs to take those steps. That’s extraordinarily important. He’s aware of it. We’re aware of it. And that’s the challenge for him and for us.”

On Stone’s assessment of his own job performance in the past year:

“I’m happy with the choices we made. I think for the most part, we’ve gotten what we want. And the additions of Fred (VanVleet) and Dillon (Brooks) were necessary and really important. I like that we brought Boban (Marjanovic) back. I like that we have Jeff (Green). I love the hire of Ime. And then I think we did well drafting Cam and Amen. So we had a very successful offseason, which set us up to make the right steps for this season.

“But I would say for myself, similar to our young guys, it’s not good enough. And so they need to improve. Our front office — not just me, all of us, our coaching staff, all of us — we’ve got to continue on the grind and make sure the choices we make between now and the end of the season, the ones in the offseason all set us up to have the best possible chance to win a championship in the short term. Not meaning like a year or two, but not 20 years either. And that’s very much our goal. And my goal.”

Rockets Rumors: Bridges, Centers, Tate, Brogdon, Core

Despite a modest 22-24 record that places them 11th in the West, the Rockets are motivated to be buyers on the trade market at next week’s deadline and will be seeking high-level talent, according to Kelly Iko, Shams Charania, and Sam Amick of The Athletic.

As The Athletic’s trio explains, the presence of new head coach Ime Udoka – and his strong influence with the team’s top decision-makers – has contributed to an acceleration of the Rockets’ timeline. Udoka has been frustrated by the team’s “inconsistencies” and is determined to make the postseason, and his level of urgency has helped convince the front office to adjust its expectations for the club and its strategy on the trade market.

The Rockets’ interest in Nets forward Mikal Bridges, reported earlier today by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, is one example of the club’s pursuit of impact players. The Athletic’s reporters confirm that Houston’s level of interest in Bridges is “extremely high,” but echo Scotto in saying that Brooklyn continues to view the 27-year-old as a cornerstone piece and has no interest in moving him.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Houston also continues to scour the trade market for more frontcourt help, with Kelly Olynyk (Jazz), Clint Capela (Hawks), Andre Drummond (Bulls), and Robert Williams (Trail Blazers) among the big men on the team’s radar, per Iko, Charania, and Amick. Udoka would like to find a center capable of not only manning the position when Alperen Sengun is on the bench but also potentially playing alongside Sengun, like Williams and Al Horford did during Udoka’s time in Boston.
  • While the Rockets will likely look to package draft capital with expiring or pseudo-expiring contracts like those belonging to Victor Oladipo, Jock Landale, and Boban Marjanovic, they also view forward Jae’Sean Tate as “movable,” according to The Athletic’s report. League sources tell The Athletic that the Celtics and Suns have shown some level of interest in Tate.
  • A ball-handler who can defend would also be on the Rockets’ wish list, league sources tell The Athletic’s trio, who mention Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon as one player who fits the bill. However, Houston isn’t eager to cut into Cam Whitmore‘s or Amen Thompson‘s minutes, which may affect the club’s aggressiveness in pursuing backcourt help.
  • Whitmore and Thompson are considered off-limits in most trade talks, according to Iko, Charania, and Amick, who say the Rockets aren’t interested in moving Jabari Smith or Tari Eason either. Jalen Green is also in that group of young players Houston would be very reluctant to trade, though The Athletic’s reporters suggest he’s not necessarily viewed as untouchable like he would’ve been a year or two ago, with Sengun having overtaken him as the player prioritized in the Rockets’ schemes. It sounds as if Houston won’t move any of its young core players in a deal for a mere rotation upgrade, but would consider including one in a package for a star.

Texas Notes: Doncic, Irving, Sengun, Smith, Wembanyama

Mavericks All-NBA point guard Luka Doncic knows how lethal he and backcourt mate Kyrie Irving can be when they’re both firing on all cylinders, writes Mark Medina of Sportsnaut.

“Some days, one is going to have a good game,” Doncic said of the All-Star twosome. “Some days, others are going to have a good game… But when we play both at our best, it’s tough to stop us. Hopefully we can get that to that next game.”

To wit, Medina notes that Dallas is scoring at an average clip of 119.1 points per 100 possessions in 21 games, across 479 Doncic’s and Irving’s minutes together. Doncic is notching a career-high 33.6 PPG on a .485/.376/.778 shooting line, plus 9.2 APG and 8.3 RPG, while Irving is averaging 25.3 PPG on .473/.410/.893 shooting, along with 5.4 APG and 5.0 RPG.

At 24-18, the Mavericks are firmly ensconced in the Western Conference playoff hunt, but seem to be a tier below the best of the West.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Rockets center Alperen Sengun is quietly making a legitimate case for All-Star consideration this season, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “He’s so skilled,” Houston point guard Fred VanVleet told Bontemps. “He’s unguardable. He’s got a thousand moves. He’s learning the higher aspects of the game now that he’s going to be a featured guy and probably be an All-Star this year.” As the best player on the 20-21 Rockets, Sengun is averaging career highs of 21.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.9 APG, and 1.2 SPG.
  • Rockets power forward Jabari Smith Jr. suffered a sprained ankle Saturday night during the club’s 127-126 overtime victory over the Jazz, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link). Iko notes that a return timeline for Smith is unclear at present, but the 6’11” big man has been ruled out for tonight’s matchup against the Celtics, according to the NBA’s latest injury report
  • Spurs rookie center Victor Wembanyama has been playing on a minutes limit since spraining his right ankle three times in December. He has also been held out of one game in back-to-back sets. While head coach Gregg Popovich indicated that Wembanyama will be held to his current restriction of 27 minutes per contest at least through Monday, he hinted that things could change once San Antonio’s road trip concludes, as Andrew Lopez of ESPN relays. The Spurs will host the Thunder on Wednesday.

Southwest Notes: Whitmore, Sengun, Jackson, Grizzlies, Kleber

Rockets rookie Cam Whitmore took a patient approach to entering Houston’s rotation but was eager to be on the court and show what he could do, writes The Athletic’s Kelly Iko. The 20th overall pick in the 2023 draft said it was a challenge to bounce between the Rockets and their G League affiliate.

It’s a struggle because I love the game of basketball and I want to play basketball,” Whitmore added. “At the end of the day, just be patient. That’s really it.

Whitmore’s patience paid off in an eight-game stretch from Jan. 3-15 in which he played 20.1 minutes a night and averaged 12.5 points while shooting 38.2% from deep. Whitmore credited the G League with helping him get up to speed on the offensive side of the ball, writes Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen.

At 6’7″ and 235 pounds, Whitmore has the tools to be an effective defensive player, Feigen writes, but he knows that’s an area of the game he has to work on.

My awareness on defense,” Whitmore said when asked what he needs to improve. “That’s really it. Being locked in on the defensive side of the ball. Once I get that down pat, everything else will fall into place. That’s the main thing; awareness on the defensive end off ball.

After playing in 23 minutes and scoring 14 points on Jan. 15 against the Sixers, Whitmore played just under nine minutes in the following game against the Knicks.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets head coach Ime Udoka was an assistant coach on the Sixers from 2019-20, working closely with superstar Joel Embiid, writes Feigen. Udoka sees some similarities between Embiid and Houston center Alperen Sengun. “It’s rare in this day and age with actual low-post scorers. These are two of the best in the game right now,” Udoka said. “With Alperen, I’m imparting some of the same wisdom, things I talked to Joel about, which is professionalism, the approach. When you’ve had that losing early on, breaking those bad habits is something I’m constantly on him about. Skill level and talent, he wants to be coached hard and wants to be held accountable.
  • The Grizzlies — marred with injuries to stars and starters — defeated the Warriors in Draymond Green‘s return on Monday behind contributions from several young players. Vince Williams Jr., who was recently converted to a standard contract, led the team in scoring with 24 points. Two-way player GG Jackson scored a career-high 23 points, his second straight game with 20 or more points. At 19 years old, he became the second youngest player in NBA history to record 20+ points in back-to-back games (Twitter link via NBA). “Big win for the Grizzlies, and definitely got to shout out big win for the [Memphis] Hustle as well,” head coach Taylor Jenkins said via AP’s Clay Bailey. “This is a product of full-on development.
  • The Mavericks got Maxi Kleber back from a toe injury on Saturday, his first game action since Dec. 8. His workload has increased in each game since his return. Kleber spoke more about the injury with’s Eddie Sefko. “It felt good. I just got to get used to it, get my rhythm back, get my wind back,” Kleber said after Dallas’ Saturday game against the Pelicans. “But overall I’m just happy. It held together in limited minutes. The second half was a little rougher just because it was sore from the first half. But overall, a good day.

Rockets’ Sengun, Knicks’ Brunson Named Players Of The Week

Rockets center Alperen Sengun and Knicks guard Jalen Brunson have been named the NBA’s Players of the Week, the league announced on Monday (via Twitter).

A third-year Turkish big man who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason, Sengun is a Most Improved Player award candidate, having become the focal point of Houston’s offense under new head coach Ime Udoka. Sengun helped lead the Rockets to a 3-1 record last week, averaging 24.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals in four games (31.4 minutes).

Brunson, meanwhile, is the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the second time this season, having previously won back in November. He helped New York to a 4-0 record to open January, averaging 27.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 9.3 assists in 36.6 minutes per contest.

According to the NBA, the other nominees in the West were Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., Anthony Davis, Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Nikola Jokic, Lauri Markkanen, Domantas Sabonis and Anfernee Simons.

Jarrett Allen, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paolo Banchero, Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, Julius Randle, Pascal Siakam and Jayson Tatum were nominated in the East (Twitter links).

Rockets GM Stone Talks Strong Start, VanVleet, Green, Holiday, More

After winning no more than 22 games in a season for three straight years from 2020-23, the Rockets are off to a 13-11 start in 2023/24, and while they’re currently outside of the top eight in the Western Conference, they’re within three games of the No. 3 seed.

General manager Rafael Stone is happy with what he has seen from the team so far, but he’s certainly not celebrating the results of the first two months of the season, as he tells Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

“December is not the right period of time to measure how good any team is,” Stone said. “We feel good about the progress we’ve made to date, but it’s just too early to tell where exactly we are. We’re a quarter of the way through the season, not at the end of the season.

“… I think we’re happy with where the group has been to date. But again, the challenge is to make sure that we’re not complacent and that we keep improving because we do need to improve in all facets of the game.”

Stone praised the progress that young Rockets players like Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith, and Tari Eason have made so far this fall, especially on the defensive end, and lauded the work the coaching staff has done to maximize the players’ strengths.

Stone’s conversation with Iko also covers many more topics and is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber, but here are a few highlights:

On his early impressions of major offseason addition Fred VanVleet:

“With Fred, we had all heard good things. But again, I take all that with a grain of salt. And so one thing that’s been nice is not only has he lived up to kind of those expectations, but he’s exceeded them. He’s just a great guy off the court. He’s been great for our group. He’s willing to talk and able to talk and communicate, but he’s mostly a quiet guy. What’s awesome about him is that he says everything that absolutely needs to be said. He provides a voice every time we need a voice. A nice guy who’s incredibly tough, tough-minded, physically tough. We’ve been really happy with Fred.”

On the impact of under-the-radar free agent signings Jeff Green and Aaron Holiday:

“Well, both of those guys are guys that we’ve liked for a long time. We were lucky that they were free agents at a time when we could play in free agency. And so yeah, they’ve done well and I’m happy for that. Jeff’s a super veteran player, but Aaron’s been around for a while, too. So they both have come in and done exactly what we thought they would do. And we thought that with our current mix, they fit well. And it’s been nice that through a quarter season that’s been the way it’s played out.”

On whether the Rockets will continue to aggressively pursue roster upgrades leading up to the trade deadline:

“We like our current group. We like the way they are playing on the court, we like the way they’re interacting. We think there’s a lot of room for improvement just in the guys we have playing better and getting better. So by no means, this year at least, are we aggressively hunting a particular deal or series of deals.

“Having said that, it’s kind of my job to talk to everybody and to hear what other teams are trying to do and see if there are things that make sense for both parties. And we’ll make sure we make every phone call and run out every ground ball. At least right now, we need a better sense of exactly where our team is before we start thinking, ‘Oh, we need to add this.’ We’ll have a better sense, honestly, a game from now, right? Like every game gives us critical information.

“I think it’s too early to predict how active we will or will not be at the trade deadline or in the days in between. But we are not feeling any need to do something, per se. We like where this group is and mostly we want there to be internal improvement.”

Rockets Notes: Whitmore, Thompson, Sengun, Udoka

It was a big offseason for Cam Whitmore, who was named the Summer League MVP in Las Vegas, then was voted the biggest steal of the 2023 draft by NBA general managers. However, the rookie forward hasn’t been part of the Rockets‘ rotation this fall, logging just 32 total minutes in five appearances at the NBA level.

Whitmore has seen more action in the G League for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston’s G League affiliate. In six games as a Viper, the 19-year-old has put up 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per night with a shooting line of .486/.431/.786.

While the scoring numbers are impressive, the Rockets have been even more encouraged by Whitmore’s assist totals, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required), who notes that the youngster only had 19 assists in 26 college games at Villanova. Head coach Ime Udoka said the team liked what it saw from the rookie in several other areas too.

“He did well,” Udoka said of Whitmore’s G League play. “He had numbers, obviously. But it’s not really the scoring. It’s shot selection, improvement on defense, recognition. They do the same schemes that we do.

“One thing about the G League, people go down there to score; it doesn’t always translate to the NBA. You’re not always going to get those same looks or other things. It’s how you blend in with the team and the scheme. When you’re getting a lot of time as a young guy, I think it’s invaluable to go down there to … play. We’re looking at everything, from understanding game plans, coverages and everything we don’t get a chance to work on daily.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Whitmore was one of four Rockets sent to the Vipers on Tuesday, along with fellow first-rounder Amen Thompson and two-way players Jermaine Samuels and Nate Hinton. Thompson is recovering from an ankle injury and Feigen suggests (via Twitter) that playing with the Vipers may be the next step in his return for the NBA club. Rio Grande Valley has three games in four days beginning on Wednesday.
  • Rockets center Alperen Sengun has put up All-Star caliber numbers, averaging 21.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and 5.5 APG through his first 17 games this season. However, he’ll face tough competition as a frontcourt player in the Western Conference, so his case would be strengthened if the Rockets – who have lost six of their last eight games – can reverse their recent slide and remain in the thick of the West’s playoff race, Feigen writes for The Houston Chronicle (subscription required).
  • The Rockets’ loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Saturday night wasn’t the team’s finest hour. As Kelly Iko of The Athletic details, Ime Udoka was ejected following a verbal altercation with LeBron James, while Dillon Brooks ripped the officiating after the game, referring to them as a “terrible group” of referees. Still, if the team emulates Udoka’s intensity and “don’t get punked” attitude going forward, the game could prove beneficial, according to Feigen (subscription required). “We’re trying to imitate our coach,” Jabari Smith Jr. said. “That’s who he is. That’s how he is. We’re trying to be like that.”

Southwest Notes: Sochan, Alvarado, Rockets, Mavs

The Spurs‘ efforts to turn forward Jeremy Sochan into a point guard have been a bit bumpy so far, but the team has shown a willingness to stick with it and Sochan has been open to learning, writes Andrew Lopez of The 20-year-old admits it’s “going to be a process” to adapt to the new position, but he’s been getting advice from last season’s starter Tre Jones and said the transition has been “fun.”

“There have been moments where it’s like, ‘Yo, I don’t want to.’ It’s like, ‘f–k this s–t.’ I’m going to be honest,” Sochan said earlier this month. “There have been moments where there isn’t confidence. But there are moments of being confident and just working. Knowing the trust I have from the coaches and players, it helps.”

As Lopez details, the Spurs didn’t have Sochan watch film of any specific point guards when he moved into the role, since they still want him to play like himself rather than trying to emulate someone else.

“He can’t play like Chris Paul or he can’t play like John Stockton,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s got to be Jeremy.”

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, who said his team “studied” Sochan ahead of the 2022 draft, referred to him as a “Swiss Army Knife-type player” with strong play-making skills, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). Jenkins isn’t surprised that Popovich is thinking outside of the box by experimenting with Sochan at the point.

“When you have been around Pop, competed against Pop, he is very open-minded to trying a lot of different things,” Jenkins said. “In the eras he has been here, playing big, playing small, emphasizing the three-ball, emphasizing the paint, emphasizing faster pace, slower pace, not a surprise.”

Here are a few more notes from around the Southwest:

  • Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado said today during a media session that he’ll make his season debut on Monday night vs. Sacramento, per Christian Clark of “I’m back,” Alvarado said. “I feel good. I will go through pregame. But I’m back. That’s the plan.” Alvarado has yet to play this fall due to a right ankle sprain.
  • Mark Medina of Sportsnaut spoke to Rockets head coach Ime Udoka about the strides his team has made so far this season, the impact that newcomers like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks have had, and the improvement he’s seen from youngsters like Alperen Sengun. “We knew what he was offensively in a lot of ways and how he impacts the game for us,” Udoka said of Sengun, who is averaging a career-best 20.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 5.7 APG. “He can control things there. But defensively, he has taken a huge step. He’s bought in and has improved on that side of the ball.”
  • While the Mavericks are off to a strong start this season, losses like Sunday’s to Sacramento show that they’re still very much a work in progress on the defensive side of the ball, writes Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). Rookie center Dereck Lively II has exceeded expectations but has struggled to slow down star bigs such as Domantas Sabonis, who had 32 points on Sunday. “If we’re not scoring 130, it’s hard to win,” head coach Jason Kidd acknowledged.

Southwest Notes: Sengun, Mavs, LaVine, Zion, More

Alperen Sengun‘s growing importance to the Rockets has been on display during the first few weeks of the 2023/24 season, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required).

Sengun has averaged 19.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in 31.4 minutes per game while making 60.0% of his field goal tries through nine contests. Houston has a +10.7 net rating when the young center is on the court, compared to -5.1 when he sits. Sengun will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the summer of 2024 and appears to be steadily increasing his value with his strong play in the middle for the Rockets.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Although the Mavericks have been linked to Zach LaVine in the past, a league source tells Marc Stein (Substack link) that Dallas is unlikely to pursue a trade for the Bulls guard at this time.
  • Rookie forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper believes he’s ready for an increased role if the Mavericks decide to lean on him a little more with Maxi Kleber sidelined, he tells Noah Weber of The Smoking Cuban. “I’ve put in the work. A lot of hours behind the scenes that nobody has seen,” Prosper said. “… Whatever my opportunity is, I’m going to come in and do what my role is; impact the game defensively, rebound, and knock down open shots. … I feel like I fit great [next to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving]. Being a strong physical wing that can come in and help them defensively and on offense be able to knock down shots, cut, get to the rim, get fouled. I feel like I play great off of those two.”
  • After Zion Williamson referred earlier this week to taking a “back seat” in the Pelicans‘ new offense and doing his best “to buy in,” Christian Clark of notes that the stats don’t back up Williamson’s assertion — his usage rate is a career-high 30.6% and he’s taking more shots per 36 minutes than he has since his rookie year. Williamson’s remarks hint at bigger problems that he and the Pelicans will need to solve, opines Will Guillory of The Athletic.
  • Top Pelicans assistant James Borrego assumed head coaching duties on Tuesday vs. Dallas with Willie Green unavailable due to a non-COVID illness (Twitter link). Borrego earned a victory in his first game as head coach since being let go by Charlotte in 2022.