San Antonio Spurs: A Deep dive on Kai Jones and Alperen Sengun

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San Antonio Spurs
Kai Jones

Well, the San Antonio Spurs are now just three days away from selecting in the 2021 NBA Draft. The NBA Finals are over. Free agency is right around the corner and your Woj and Shams notifications are on. It’s almost time.

With not a lot of elite frontcourt options in free agency this year, the narrative that’s floating around Spurs circles is indeed the obvious one. They should draft a big man to fit alongside the young core and reassess their competitive timeline.

Even with notable veterans more than likely leaving the Alamo City this year, team chemistry is still very much intact. The Spurs still have one of the best young cores in the league and should be excited heading into the offseason.

The consensus among Spurs fans is that franchise needs to look to draft a long, young, athletic big man. Making the right moves over the next few weeks can definitely lead the Spurs back into the playoff mix.

We’ve previously covered some realistic free agent options the Spurs have at the 12th slot on Thursday, but two stick out for me.

In my opinion, the most realistic option is to stay at 12th and draft either Kai Jones or Alperen Sengun. Earlier this week, both completed workouts for the team, and I would love either one to be a part of this team. But first, let’s get to know these guys a little more and you can form your own opinion.
San Antonio Spurs
Alperen Sengun – Photo via EuroHoops.Net

Alperen Sengun

Alperen Sengun stands at 6’10 and weighs in at 245 pounds. He has been playing professionally in his home country of Turkey for over six years now and as of late, his stock has skyrocketed, going from a mid-late 2nd round pick to now a mid-to-late 1st round pick.

Mostly known for his high basketball IQ, the 19-year-old Turkish league MVP’s unique playstyle in the low post is truly like no others in this class. When you watch film and witness his ability to turn broken plays into behind-the-back passes it makes you want your team to consider drafting him as well.

That’s just the flashy stuff people go crazy for on Twitter though. Trust me, there’s much more to his game. Without a doubt, he’s one of the most mobile bigs I’ve seen in recent years. His ability to fly up the court in a hurry and put himself in the best position to score is impressive.

Having stern coaches push him consistently throughout his life to perform at a high level from such a young age is very telling. He has proven on multiple occasions that he has the willingness and motor to continue developing his game.

His foot speed is incredible for someone his size. He’ll be able to blow by bigs in the league in no time and has shown extreme intensity and energy on both sides, proving to be a team player and a leader even as a teenager.

Being an outstanding rebounder on both sides of the floor in the Turkish League compared to the NBA, however, is night and day. Attacking the rim, taking Giannis-like euro-steps, and avoiding contact only to hoist a near roof-grazing floater over defenders is impressive. But will his game translate well into the NBA?

On the defensive side, he needs to improve a ton. Sengun often is caught gambling trying to go for steals and sometimes ending up in early foul trouble.

Putting up 19 points, just under nine rebounds, and three assists sounds great, right? Being the first option as a teenager and having a true shooting percentage just below 70%, you’d think his team would realize what his strengths are and put him in the best position to dominate, right?

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. I get that you have to take chances and show scouts what you can do, but when that leads to shooting an alarming 20% from the 3-point line and you’re often caught pouting when you or your team aren’t off to the best start? Would you as an organization be willing to take that game at #12?

Yes, history shows the Spurs can humble even the biggest personalities this league has seen, but times have changed and Coach Pop wants to compete. Time will tell if Sengun is the guy.

San Antonio Spurs
Kai Jones

Kai Jones

Kai Jones stands at 6’11 and is arguably the most athletic big man in the draft. The 20-year-old Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year had an amazing freshman season at The University of Texas.

His ability to glide across the court, being able to close out on opposing players and guard multiple positions, solidifies him as a 1st round lock in every mock draft.

Comparing Kai’s game to any current player is fairly tough. Some say he’s a mix of Jared Jackson Jr and Serge Ibaka. Others just say the kid is raw and is an average system player. This should come as no surprise when you realize Jones has only been playing basketball for less than a decade and his first love was actually track and field.

While at UT, Jones played his role fairly well, averaging 8.8 points per game and 4.8 boards. He shot a very high percentage of 65.5% around the rim and was not afraid to take an occasional open three. He also has the confidence to create his own shot.

Now let’s talk about some of his weaknesses so you can make a decision for yourself. While posting a true shooting percentage of 64.6%, there are a lot of problem spots to his game that need to be addressed.

Having only a few basic post moves can fly in college, especially when you’re an athletic freak with a 7’3 wingspan, but weighing less than 240 as a big man in the NBA won’t cut it. Adding weight will be a must for Jones if he wants to have a sustainable career in the league.

When watching film, you’d be able to tell that Jones is fairly new to the game as well. He often looks lost on the offensive side of the floor and doesn’t have the best hands in the world. His lack of footwork also can lead to traveling violations. Still, most of these are minor issues that can be easily fixed with time.

Known for having a great, upbeat attitude at all times and leading by example in the classroom with an impressive 4.2 high school GPA, often athletes like Jones are rarely faced with challenges or an elite level of competition.

To me, this is apparent when he’s faced with a steep level of adversity. Tending to be caught be up in the moment and sometimes even seen getting emotional on the bench at certain times may hurt his draft stock.

Kai reportedly had a great combine where he showcased his speed, agility, and strength. But his poor decision-making on the court, often attracting double teams in bad spots and causing unwanted turnovers in clutch moments of the game, are some of the alarming parts of his game that scouts are somewhat concerned about.

Like Sengün, a year in Austin with no pressure of coming to San Antonio will give Jones the confidence he needs to take his game to the next level.

The question is now who do you love more? Who do you want the Spurs to draft at #12? Sound off below!

1 COMMENT

  1. I would take Kai Jones and have him work with Tim Duncan and Olajuwon he will develop the footwork and we have one of the best shooting coaches in the game!!!! Our main goal with the Spurs is getting us some plays that helps are strengths

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