The tale of Aleksej Pokuševski’s 3rd season is a wild two-sided coin. Surprising many on opening night against the brand new duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, the Thunder went noticeably small in their starting lineup with Kenrich Williams at the four and Aleksej Pokuševski at the five.
Poku began the season on a good note. Through the first 31 games of the season, Poku played some of the best basketball of his young career and even started in 25 of those games. Before his leg injury, Poku was also putting up some really nice box score numbers averaging: 8.8 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, two assists per game, and 1.3 blocks per game which ranks comfortably in the top 10 for the 2022-2023 season.
He also shot much better from the field, increasing his overall field goal percentage from 40.8 percent to 43.4 percent, and his 3-point percentage went up from 29 percent to an above-league average of 36 percent.
Then chaos arrived. On December 28th, 2022, at home against the Spurs, Poku took a hard fall on his left leg and missed roughly two months of games with a non-displaced tibial plateau fracture.
Poku returned for three games but looked like a shell of the guy we saw earlier in the season who was flashing signs of maturity, improvement, growth, and development.
How does Aleksej Pokusevski benefit from the 2023 Thunder draft class?
Many times the best ability you can have is availability and with the Thunder drafting two guards, Cason Wallace and Keyontae Johnson, that helps leave some extra available playing time for Poku.
It has been over-discussed, talked about, stressed over, and more in regard to the Thunder’s roster crunch problem. Luckily for Poku, after this draft, most of the crunch is more on the guard side of the roster.
Although he is versatile, Poku will likely spend most of his minutes at the 4 or 5. The only way for a player as raw as Poku gets better is through in-game reps. Taking minutes away from him so he can primarily work in practice or on the Blue is not very likely to be a successful path for him as he goes into a contract year.
I’m sure on the floor, a steady hand and defender like Cason Wallace should make Poku’s life easier, but among all else, the key for Poku is playing time. Poku, more than anything, benefits from the fact that the forward/big room did not grow and still looks to have a spot for him in the rotation if he can grab it in 2023-2024.
Drafting only guards under 6’5 should help Poku as there is less competition for those 4 and 5 minutes with Dario Saric likely gone, Davis Bertans likely not to play a ton given his contract, and more. Only time will tell, but as we currently stand, Aleksej Pokuševski is definitely a winner coming out of the 2023 NBA Draft for the OKC Thunder.