The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Aleksej Pokusevski in the 2020 NBA Draft, tipping their hand pre-draft that they were zeroing in on the project playmaker. This forced the Thunder to trade up to the 17th pick to acquire Pokusevski. While many pundits did not think he was ready to come stateside, the Thunder immediately brought him over, and his rookie season featured many bloopers.
The idea of Aleksej Pokusevski becoming this unicorn seven-foot playmaker with a scoring touch is pretty well squashed, but there is still hope for him to be a rotational piece. So while it was a boom-or-bust move, it was worth the upside swing.
Coming into the season, Mark Daigneault and Sam Presti raved about Pokusevski’s offseason development calling him a connector for the offense. Daigneault even went as far as to say that the wing was unrecognizable in his play compared to years past.
He was right, though it was only in limited sample size before a devastating leg injury derailed Pokusevski’s season.
Aleksej Pokusevski’s season can be broken into two halves, but can the wing become a viable NBA player?
Before his leg injury suffered on December 27th against the Spurs, Aleksej Pokusevski averaged eight points, five rebounds, two assists, and 1.9 STOCKS (blocks and assists) per game. However, the most impressive part of this stretch was his shooting splits, turning in 44 percent from the floor and 37 percent from deep.
Pokusevski, graded out as a “very good” defender according to Synergy, places the former first-round pick in the 77th percentile, including the 92nd percentile in pick-and-roll defense. Pair that with his help-side defense, and you have a valuable player on that end of the floor.
The OKC Thunder saw Aleksej Pokusevski fit into the offensive flow, which seemed like a tough hill to climb this time last year, and shooting the rock at a 39 percent clip on corner triples. These improvements were encouraging for Poku, but it was not able to be sustained after his injury.
Before the injury, Pokusevski was a quality role player for the Thunder, which can not be discounted. However, it was amazing he even stepped on the floor again last year after that leg injury, especially in critical games down the stretch.
He did enough in year three to prove he can be a valuable rotational player in this league and worth a shot next season. The issue for Pokusevski remains that roster spots in OKC are hard to come by.
Entering his final year under contract before reaching restricted free agency, a marker Sam Presti typically does not let players hit. A lot rides on this upcoming season for the seven-footer.