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MIP Candidate Eligible for Award Without Games Requirement?

Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun, potential NBA Award candidate

According to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko, Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.

Had the Rockets remained in playoff contention, the breakout star may have returned in the postseason, if not before. However, they were effectively eliminated from postseason contention after they lost to the Golden State Warriors last week. Subsequently, there’s no longer a desire to rush him back because the risk of re-injury outweighs the reward of him coming back at full strength next season.

Alperen Sengun Eligible for NBA Award Without Games Requirement?

There was one other reason for having Sengun return early. Sengun, just 21 years old, was a candidate for the 2023-24 Most Improved Player Award.

In his third season, he’s averaged career-highs of 21.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. A three-level scorer with a masseuse’s touch and a ballerina’s footwork, he emerged as the Rockets’ most pivotal player early in the season. Indeed, he and Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey were early frontrunner for Most Improved Player. When comparing Sengun’s performance to the other presumed candidates, he has the largest all-around impact.

Because he only appeared in 63 games, Sengun seems as if he’d be ineligible for the Most Improved Player Award. However, per ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, Sengun “will only be eligible if an independent doctor rulesif an independent doctor rules he will be unable to play through May 31 due to the injury that ended his regular season two games shy of the 65-game minimum.”

Again, Sengun might have returned to the court before the regular season ends on Apr. 14. Nonetheless, it’s also plausible that he wouldn’t have been healthy enough to play again this season. His best chance to return always appeared to be if the Rockets made a deep run in the 2024 NBA Playoffs. For the record, the Conference Finals begin on May 21 and the Finals begin on Jun. 6.

Should Alperen Sengun win?

As mentioned, Sengun arguably has the largest all-around impact in the Most Improved Player field. The only projected candidates with higher scoring averages than Sengun are Maxey and Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas. Sengun doled out more assists, pulled down more rebounds, and racked up more steals per game than Thomas. He outproduced Maxey in rebounds and steals per game as well.

Furthermore, the Sixers were in legitimate danger of falling out of the playoffs when Joel Embiid was sidelined. They went 15-27 without the reigning MVP. As a result, it’s impossible to use Philadelphia’s team record as a factor in why Maxey should win the award.


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