Rockets encouraged by the growth of the duo Christian Wood and Alperen Sengun

Just two months ago, Houston Rockets head coach Stephen Silas was openly discouraged by the production of dual rosters featuring Christian Wood and rookie Alperen Sengun.

But that dynamic has changed since the All-Star break in mid-February. Among Houston’s two-man combinations who have played at least 50 minutes together, the Wood-Sengun pair entered Wednesday with the best net rating (+10.6) of the entire team in that span.

Although a career-high 39 points was the main storyline in Monday’s win over Washington, the 26-year-old big man went out of his way to credit the rookie for his defensive play⁠—allowing the slender Wood to play more for his body type on the perimeter.

“It really starts with me and Al-P and our defensive presence,” Wood said after the Sengun game. “He was playing the five. He was doing a good job on Kristaps Porzingis.

Ahead of Wednesday’s game in Dallas, Silas was asked about the encouraging data and factors that sparked the duo’s resurgence. He has answered:

I had a conversation with Christian about this today. They played well together.

Christian has proven he can defend some guys well on the perimeter. He shouldn’t keep guys running from screens and running around and so on. But if it’s in the helper, it’s a good helper. He can be a good low man.

And Al-P, if he can stay out of trouble with his technique – which is getting better and better, as we’ve seen – can defend all five. He can hold his own, be physical and bounce back.

For the 2021-22 season, the Rockets rank dead last among 30 NBA teams in defensive rankings (116.3 entering Wednesday). But in 14 games since the All-Star hiatus, which is when the Sengun-Wood duo took on a bit more prominence, Houston has gone from No. 30 to No. 20.

It’s certainly not a game-changing jump, but in a rebuilding year focused on the growth and development of young players, it’s a scenario to watch in the final 10 games of the season as the Rockets seek to determine what the configurations of their alignment and alignment should be. 2022-23 season.

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