Young star dubbed 'Baby Jokic' leaves game in wheelchair after scary injury Sunday

Mar 10, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun (28) is wheeled off
Mar 10, 2024; Sacramento, California, USA; Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun (28) is wheeled off / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are lucky to have the best basketball player alive on their team in Nikola Jokic. The Joker is a true one-of-one, and along with being the best, he’s one of the most unique players in the NBA - both on and off the court.

But the NBA is a copycat league, and it was only a matter of time until other big men came along trying to replicate what Jokic does - at least on the court. The closest replica of anyone to enter the league recently is Houston Rockets sophomore, Aleperen Sengun.

The next Jokic?

Sengun, the 6’11 245 pound Turkish 21-year-old has a similar stylistic game to that of Jokic, albeit obviously not as good. But he is an offensive hub, playing a bit of point center and operating from the elbows and the high post. He’s a brilliant, creative passer and rebounder and isn’t afraid to work defenders down low for his own points.

He’s averaging 21.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game this season and has only missed a single game. He still needs to put on some size/muscle, expand his shooting range, and improve his defense. But those were all knocks on Jokic early in his career as well.

Statistically speaking, it’s extremely unlikely that Sengun will ever come close to the heights of Jokic. But still, at his young age, it looks like the Rockets got an absolute steal with the 16th pick in the 2021 draft. He has even been dubbed ‘Baby Jokic’ for the clear stylistic resemblance.

Scary injury

However, in the waning moments of Sunday night’s victory over the Kings, Sengun went up to contest a shot by Domantas Sabonis and landed awkwardly on his right leg. It looked potentially devastating almost immediately and Sengun was down in pain for several minutes, before being taken off the court in a wheelchair. He looked distraught and inconsolable.

It looked scary, but the Rockets and NBA fans got some good news today as Sengun has avoided a major injury. He suffered a severely sprained ankle and a bruised knee, but it easily could have been much worse.

Sengun still faces an uphill battle to return this season, but the Rockets were unlikely to reach the play-in tournament anyway. The fact that he won’t face a long-term absence tied to a major knee surgery is excellent news for all parties involved. Hopefully, the exciting young player will be back on the court and fully healthy very soon.