The OKC Thunder will hope to see Aleksej Pokusevski not only return to his pre-injury form but develop heading into his last year under contract.
Aleksej Pokusevski is still just 21 years old, though he enters the last year of his contract before hitting restricted free agency in the summer of 2024. Last year, Pokusevski only played in 34 games for the OKC Thunder due to a server leg injury.
Though, the 17th overall pick in 2020 played his best basketball prior to his injury. In the 2022-23 NBA season, Pokusevski averaged eight points, nearly five rebounds, and two assists per game while posting 1.9 stocks on the defensive end of the floor. Pokusevski shot 43 percent from the floor, 37 percent from the three-point line, and 63 percent at the charity stripe.
In the month of November, Aleksej Pokusevski played in 13 contests (starting 12 of them) to the tune of 11 points, five rebounds, and an assist per game. The Serbian big man swatted 26 shots and swiped ten steals in that month while shooting 51 percent from the floor, 45 percent from three-point land on 46 attempts, and 66 percent at the free throw line.
Aleksej Pokusevski is the most polarizing player in the Oklahoma City Thunder organization now that Darius Bazley is on his third team since February. Portions of the fanbase are all in on Pokusevski’s potential to be a high-end rotational piece, while others think the project pick from that odd November Draft should be cut loose as the team begins the early stages of shifting their focus toward winning basketball games.
The truth is often in the middle. There is a reason the OKC Thunder, to this point, have not extended a contract offer to Pokusevski, even given their history of not letting players hit the restricted market. This is a prove it year for the 21-year-old big man.
He showed last year he can do it. He can be an under-control player with solid decision-making as a connective playmaker, a high-end help-side defender, and provide some floor spacing as a shooter when he gets hot. It is not his fault he got injured, it was truly a freak accident, so holding that against him would be wrong.
However, the former first-round pick has to prove his November production can be consistent across an 82-game season. If it can, not only will he be getting a second contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he will unlock another level for the Bricktown boys.
If Aleksej Pokusevski is a rotational piece, as he was last year, the lineup combinations Mark Daigneault can roll out there on a given night are endless. Pairing Pokusevski with Chet Holmgren, Jaylin Williams, or even having him as the lone big on the floor, can give the Thunder a lot of looks that keep matchups on their heels.
While every player on your roster will ideally make an impact, these three names can swing the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season. If one, two, or all three of them hit, the Thunder will have an even better year than many are projecting.