Why did the Thunder trade Alperen Sengun to the Rockets? Revisiting 2021 NBA Draft deal for rising star

The Thunder already have a bright future, so it’s scary to think it could’ve been even brighter.

Following a season that saw them finish with a 22-50 record, the Thunder entered the 2021 NBA Draft with three first-round picks. They used one of those picks on Alperen Sengun, only to trade the Turkish center to the Rockets on a draft night deal.

Sengun has since established himself as one of the best young players in the NBA. He started making a name for himself as a sophomore. Now in his third season, he’s posting 20-10 on a nightly basis while earning comparisons to Nikola Jokic and Domantas Sabonis because of his playmaking ability.

Why did the Thunder trade Sengun to the Rockets and what did they get in return for him? Let’s revisit the 2021 NBA Draft trade.

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Why did the Thunder trade Alperen Sengun to the Rockets?

The Thunder selected Sengun with the No. 16 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Before officially making the pick, news broke that the Thunder had agreed to trade the No. 16 pick to the Rockets for two future first-round picks. The Thunder selected Sengun for the Rockets.

In his media availability after the draft, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone explained the team’s motivation in trading up for Sengun.

“As an 18-year-old, [Sengun] was the MVP of the Turkish league, which is probably the third strongest league in the world,” Stone said. “You guys can do the research on people who’ve had that level of success at a high level of pro basketball. It’s a short list and a good one.

“He’s just already accomplished and he’s unique. He doesn’t really play like anybody. Having said that he doesn’t really have a game that looks like anyone else’s, he’s a good basketball player, he’s a skilled basketball player. He’s not just somebody who just does one thing. He does a lot of really interesting things. We think he potentially has a chance to be special. We had him as one of the guys in this draft who had the potential to be — how would I say this? — he has a higher ceiling than most guys, I think, and so that’s exciting and so we were very focused on him.

“We did not believe that he had a chance of making it to us at 23, so we were really aggressive trying to trade up all through the first round and then we were able to find a deal at 16 to get him. We’re excited and hopeful for him just like the other guys.”

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Alperen Sengun Houston Rockets 2021 Draft

The Thunder had two other picks in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. They selected Josh Giddey with the sixth overall pick and Tre Mann with the 18th overall pick.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti also expressed excitement about the team’s moves.

“We felt it was an extremely productive night for us,” Presti said. “We are excited about the players that we were able to add and excited about those guys coming into the program. They all bring something different and I think will be positive contributors to the organization.

“They all have a lot of work in front of them and this is just the starting point for their careers. … We’re looking forward to walking with them through their development paths.”

What are the picks the Thunder got for Alperen Sengun?

The Rockets traded two heavily protected first-round picks owned by the Pistons and Wizards for Sengun.

The pick from the Pistons was top 16 protected in 2022 and top 18 protected in 2023, so it hasn’t yet been conveyed. If it’s not conveyed in 2024 (top 18 protected), 2025 (top 13 protected), 2026 (top 11 protected) or 2027 (top nine protected), it will turn into a 2027 second-round pick.

The pick from the Wizards was top 14 protected in 2023. It also didn’t convey. If it’s not conveyed in 2024 (top 12 protected), 2025 (top 10 protected) or 2026 (top eight protected), it will turn into second round picks in 2026 and 2027.

Alperen Sengun is happy he was traded to the Rockets

On an appearance on “Podcast P with Paul George,” Sengun talked about his NBA Draft experience.

Sengun said that he didn’t know he was going to be traded from the Thunder to the Rockets and that he was happy he didn’t end up in Oklahoma City because people told him it was “so boring.”

“No, I didn’t know (I was going to be traded) actually,” Sengun explained. “It was like, everyone is talking about before the draft who’s going to go this pick, this pick. I expected that I’m going to go before 10. It was like Orlando, Sacramento, eight, nine. We passed that and then they said Washington, Charlotte were other teams, but I knew they (were) not going to pick me because I did not even work out with them.

“I didn’t even work out with Houston actually. My agent was telling me all the time they calling me for you, they want to learn what you do, they calling everybody, you know? I was getting bored because I was getting nervous they’re not gonna pick me, you know. I’m going (to be a) high pick, I didn’t want that.

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“Actually, I didn’t want to go to OKC that much. My OKC workout was, like, maybe some of my worst workout I did since I came here. It was really so hard. They said you’re going to OKC but my agent was in my table saying you’re going to go to OKC, but they’re going to trade you to Houston. I don’t even know anything about Houston because I didn’t even talk to them. But they were telling me OKC is so boring, I hope you’re not going there.

“When they told me you going to Houston, I was happy because there’s something to do over there, people said. I was lucky, a lot of Turkish people were there, too, which has helped me a lot.”


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