OKC Thunder block Aleksej Pokusevski from playing with Team Serbia

The Oklahoma City Thunder traded up in the 2020 NBA Draft to grab Aleksej Pokusevski with the 17th selection via the Minnesota Timberwolves. The OKC Thunder telegraphed their love for Pokusevski throughout the predraft process, which the Dallas Mavericks used as leverage to force Sam Presti to leap up in the draft and grab their guy.

Aleksej Pokusevski was always going to be a project player, the OKC Thunder invested in him understanding it was a home run swing. If he pans out, hitting his ceiling, he is a seven-foot playmaking guard, with excellent help side defense which has allowed him to swat nearly a shot attempt per game.

The OKC Thunder are two games into this experiment and Pokusevski has gone through his fair share of adversity. His rookie season did not include a Summer League due to covid, they had a shortened training camp, preseason, and regular season in his debut season in the NBA. In year two, the team had him focus on individual training and held him out of NBA Summer League that summer. During this Sophomore season, Aleksej Pokusevski needed a G-League stint to get back on track.

Now entering year three, Pokusevski played in his first NBA Summer League and is in line for a fully healthy offseason, a long training camp, and full-length preseason. Pokusevski has a lot to prove in year three as the OKC Thunder roster improves around him, still having a treasure case of draft picks, and beginning to shift out of rebuilding and in to contending eventually.

The 20-year-old power forward has to prove he belongs in the league, as he is owed 3.2-million dollars this season, and is on a 5-million dollar club option in 2023-24. This could be a make-or-break season for the 2020 first-rounder.

The Oklahoma City Thunder block Aleksej Pokusevski from playing for Team Serbia in Eurobasket, wanting him focused on the 2022-23 NBA Season

The OKC Thunder still values Pokusevski and wants to invest in his development, they also want to decide on his future is he a piece, a roster spot, they have to account for moving forward? So his preparation this offseason, and play on the floor during the season, will be massively important for his future with the organization.

It was announced this week by the Senior National Team selector for Team Serbia that the squad “did not get permission from their teams” to add Aleksej Pokusevski and Miami Heat rookie Nikola Jokic to the roster. Both organizations cite NBA preparation as the reason why.