NBA Front Office expert predicts no extension for Aleksej Pokusevski

Aleksej Pokusevski #17 of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)
Aleksej Pokusevski #17 of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Aleksej Pokusevski in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. Sam Presti circled Pokusevski in the draft, even moving up to pick 17 to get him. After three NBA seasons, Aleksej Pokusevski is now eligible for a rookie-scale contract extension. Salary Cap Expert Keith Smith of Spotrac tried to predict each player’s extension in the class. Historically, Smith has been able to nail these projections.

While Aleksej Pokusevski does not headline this draft class, his contract talks remain one of the most interesting for this current cycle. What will Sam Presti opt to do this summer? Does Pokusevski’s latest injury impact these negotiations? What have we learned from recent OKC Thunder trends?

The OKC Thunder could extend former first-round pick Aleksej Pokusevski, Though Front Office Expert Keith Smith would not bet on it.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have bet a lot on Pokusevski, from abnormally telegraphing their love for the project prospect to the point they had to trade up to acquire him on draft night to all the developmental hours placed into him. This was the first time in the Serbian’s young career that he showed significant improvements. The praise started early, mere days into Training Camp, when Mark Daigneault explained that Pokusevski looked like an entirely different player.

Before the turn of the new year, Pokusevski looked like a complimentary (and functional!) role player. Just before the New Year, the former first-round pick suffered a significant leg injury that held him out from December 27th to March 28th. Once he returned from injury, he was never the same. Again, though, it was remarkable to even see him get back on the hardwood in the same season after that leg injury.

Since Darius Bazley was shipped out at the NBA Trade Deadline, Aleksej Pokusevski has taken the crown for the most polarizing player on the OKC Thunder roster. Really, to no fault of his own, but rather our own lofty expectations of him. That brings us to the present contract negotiations at hand.

If the Thunder and Pokusevski do not work out a contract extension, the former first-round pick will hit restricted free agency during the 2023-24 offseason, a tag Presti has rarely let players get under his watch (See: Darius Bazley being traded at the deadline ahead of this Summer).

Oklahoma City has obviously invested in Poku, they still believed in the flashes he showed pre-injury this season and like having him around!

So why do even Salary Cap experts like Keith Smith still not project Pokusevski to be extended this summer? That is a simple answer, but not in the way you might think.

Sure, Obviously, the product, to this point, does not warrant an extension. So if that is all you are here to see, there you have it. But, Pokusevski himself would likely not want to extend his deal this Summer. The only pact that you could see OKC dish out to Poku would be so beyond team-friendly that it would not be worth it to the 21-year-old to sign. So you might as well bet on yourself.

While Smith nor I expect the two sides to come to an agreement, the Thunder are a lot like the hit reality TV Show Big Brother. You always expect the unexpected when covering a Sam Presti-led team.

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