2022-23 Fantasy: 1 mid-round center you should try to leave every draft with

Taking a closer look at why Houston's Alperen Sengun is a potential must-pick in fantasy basketball this season.

The term “breakout” is defined differently across the fantasy community, but I’m using breakout to describe players who should exceed their average draft position (ADP) relative to their on-court position and see a boon in minutes and opportunity.

Identifying breakout centers this season hasn’t been easy. I expect players like Onyeka Okongwu or Walker Kessler to emerge as the season wears on, but their path to make an immediate impact is hampered by playing behind veterans (Clint Capela and Kelly Olynyk).

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The good news is both those players are attainable with inviting ADPs at 119 for Okongwu and Kessler at 148. There’s a non-zero chance Capela and Olynyk get traded at some point this season but even if that doesn’t occur, Okongwu and Kessler offer standalone value for their ability to block shots at a high rate in limited minutes.

There’s breakout potential with them, but in the meantime, I’m expecting Alperen Sengun to burst onto the scene in his second NBA season.

Try to draft Alperen Sengun for the 2022-23 NBA season

Anyone following the Houston Rockets has been enamored by the (then) 19-year-old Turkish big man since the 2021 NBA Summer League. His play in the 2021 Summer League showed he belongs in the league. Unfortunately, the path to playing time was initially unclear in his rookie season because of the Rockets’ frontcourt depth. His playing time was sporadic until Daniel Theis was dealt to the Boston Celtics weeks before the All-Star break.

Rockets and fantasy managers were going to get to see Sengun settle into the Rockets rotation in a backup role behind Christian Wood. In 20 minutes off the bench per night, Sengun finished his rookie campaign averaging 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists with 1.7 stocks (steals plus blocks). He shot 47 percent from the field but didn’t offer fantasy managers much in the threes department (0.4) and had a high turnover rate at 2.0 per game.

However, when given the opportunity to start, his stats jumped across the board.

But even more impressive are his numbers when receiving at least 30 minutes on the floor. It only occurred on six occasions, but Sengun had me yearning for more as a guy who appreciates “the numbers.”

So, what’s in store for Sengun this year that warrants a breakout? The departure of Christian Wood. Wood played an average of 30.4 minutes per night under coach Stephen Silas, so it’s safe to assume that with Sengun now projected as the Rockets starting center, he’ll replace Wood’s minutes in this offense.

And with minutes comes opportunity.

Sengun was one of the top players in EuroBasket 2022, earning an honorable mention for the All-FIBA EuroBasket team. I recommend checking out some of his highlights from the tournament — it’s filled with highlight dunks, fancy dimes, dribble-drives into tough shots and an impressive display of footwork on offense and defense.

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His ADP may seem rich at 69.9 (sixth round), but he’s going to be a top-60 fantasy player this season with the upside of top-50. He’s going to have some spike weeks in turnovers, but his counting stats should more than make up for his lapses in ball control. Per Cleaning the Glass, Sengun finished in the 88th percentile in usage rate, 93rd percentile in passing, 74th percentile in blocks and 84th percentile in steals at the center position while coming off the bench for 20 minutes per night.

I’ve already expressed my infatuation with his per-36 numbers and he’ll be an exciting foundational piece for fantasy managers this season. Buckle up — Sengun’s going to the moon *insert rocket emoji*.