The Oklahoma City Thunder have targeted Aleksej Pokusevski for over a year now. He was clearly their guy, selecting him in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft and moving up to do so. Now comes the fun part. Aleksej Pokusevski playing in Oklahoma City. What can we expect from the big man commonly referred to as simply “Poku”? The actual answer is I do not know. Frankly, I think that is what Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault would tell you right now. That is no fun though! Let’s begin to speculate!
Aleksej Pokusevski is a 7’0 big man who plays like a guard. His biggest knocks coming into the 2020 NBA Draft starts with his small frame and inability to perform at the rim both scoring at the cup and defending the rim. If He plays like a duck, quacks like a duck, he is a duck. Pokusevski should not be shoe-horned into the center position if he can not play the center position, or if his skill set is better suited elsewhere.
Poku was playing in a league overseas that was full of teams that would struggle to knock off your local YMCA league champions. It is safe to say it will take a while to get adjusted to NBA life. So much so, that many questioned if he would come stateside this season.
If you did not follow this draft closely and were surprised when the Thunder selected this undersized potential unicorn, you were not alone! Even Aleksej Pokusevski was “shocked” to be selected in the top 20. No matter how Poku’s career pans out, the Oklahoma City Thunder walk away from the 2020 NBA Draft feeling as if they have won. It is not often you get to say that.
The perception around the 2020 NBA Draft, was that it is a weak draft class. While that statement is true when looking at the top of the draft, when you evaluate the entire class you realize just how deep it is with projected NBA contributors. The problem is, this class did not have a clear cut star for the teams selecting at the top.
So what makes the Aleksej Pokusevski pick so great? In a class that is viewed as weak, or selecting a role player/starter level player at best, Oklahoma City took a swing on a player that could be Kristaps Porzingis. The Thunder decided to swing for the fences like a 2020 MLB player, and they might strike out like a 2020 MLB player, but they also could hit a home run that would put Barry Bonds to shame.
If Aleksej Pokusevski is the next Kristaps Porzingis “unicorn” type player, the Thunder will look like absolute geniuses acquiring that value at pick 17. If Poku is the next Dragan Bender, the Thunder shrug and move on with 18 future first-round picks and SGA in their back pocket.
2020 was not the NBA Draft class the Thunder had to nail their selection in. Grabbing a player like Tyrell Terry who will be a Seth Curry type player would be nice, but the impact he could have in Bricktown would not be worth passing up the chance at a generational talent. That is why no matter how Poku’s career pans out, this was the best move the Thunder could’ve made.
What can you project for Poku this season? How much will he play? Will he even play? I can guarantee you Aleksej Pokusevski will play this season for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but how much remains up in the air. As of now, I would expect the Thunder to slow play Poku as he gets adjusted to NBA life and American Culture.
This season, you will see flashes of exactly why Aleksej Pokusevski was the 17th overall pick, why Sam Presti zeroed in on him for over a year and traded up to get him. You will also see why he is a bit of a project.
You should feel extremely excited about Aleksej Pokusevski because the only outcome that could impact OKC’s future is if he is a legit star.
What are you predicting for Poku this season and his career?