DRAFT TRADE: The Oklahoma City Thunder traded Ricky Rubio and the draft rights to Jaden McDaniels (28th overall) in exchange for forward James Johnson and the draft rights to Aleksej Pokuševski (17th overall) and Minnesota’s 2024 Second Round Pick.
About Aleksej Pokusevski
Aleksej Pokusevski is one of the most unique players of this year’s NBA Draft given his combination of size, feel and perimeter skill set. He first came onto the scene at the 2018 U17 World Championships in Argentina playing for Serbia. Pokusevski immediately showed that he possesses high basketball IQ to go along with ability to handle the ball and pass at a high level despite his size. Pokusevski kept growing and now stands at 7-feet tall but his ability to control the ball, shoot from deep and run the break hasn’t taken a step back. Pokusevski built a strong resume in FIBA competitions. He never put up fancy statistics because his thin body hasn’t allowed him to be dominant against his peers, but showed how high his upside is if physicality ever catches up to his skill. Pokusevski has carved out a role for himself in the Greek second league playing for Olympiacos’ second team, and even though injuries have kept him off the court for quite some time he has already shown improvement both from a physical and skills standpoint.
Even though the level of 2nd Division in Greece is low, his skills are translatable and a good fit to the modern NBA. For some scouts Pokusevski doesn’t have an NBA position and will most likely be a minus on defense. Even though those question marks are legit, 7-foot bigs with advanced shooting, ball handling, passing and rebounding skills don’t grow on trees.
Stands at 7-feet tall after hitting a growth spurt recently to go along with above average length. His weight stands still low for someone his size and lack of strength especially in the upper body gets him in trouble especially as he gets closer to the paint. On the other hand, he moves very well for his size, has great feet and comes off the floor quickly. Even though he’s not an elite athlete by any means, he’s fluid enough and has plenty of potential physically.
Plays at both forward spots even though he’s more suitable at the four. Can shoot, put the ball on the floor and playmake, a combination that makes him a great fit for what NBA teams are looking for in modern bigs. The ball comes off his hands smoothly and his release point is high thanks to his elite height. His understanding of the game and basketball IQ is off the charts.
Engaged rebounder with great hands and instincts. Lack of strength and physicality gives him trouble when playing in contact but that won’t be an issue once he reaches body maturity. He’s younger than any other draft eligible European player this year.
Basketball IQ, anticipation and instincts will make him a solid team defender in a good scheme. Doesn’t have the physical presence to be considered a potentially plus defender but he should a playable player on defense once he improves his body and learns defensive tactics and schemes.
- Participated in the 2017 Jordan Brand Classic Camp in Barcelona and the Basketball Without Borders Camps in Belgrade (2018) and in Charlotte (2019).
- Participated in 2018 Euroleague ANGT in Munich where he averaged 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists shooting 40% from two and 54.6% from 3.
- Played for Serbia at the FIBA 2018 U17 World Championships in Argentina where he averaged 7.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and led the event with 3.0 blocks per game.
- At the 2019 U18 European Championships he averaged 10.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.7 steals and led with event with 4.0 blocks per game.
- On March 19, 2019, at just 17 years, 2 months and 21 days, became the youngest player of Olympiacos’ history that saw the court on a Euroleague game scoring one point and grabbing two boards.
- In 11 games for Olympiacos B in the Greek second league he averaged 10.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting 32.1% on 3s.
- Skilled big who can shoot from deep, put the ball on the floor and pass
- Good, not great, athlete who can change ends and directions quickly
- Very smart, has a deep understanding of the game
- Potentially a great post and pinch post big / can shoot over the top of small guys, attacks bigger guys with his dribble
Holds both Greek and Serbian passports. Had the option to represent either Greek or Serbian national teams but opted in representing Serbia.
“He has a great wingspan and has great basketball instincts. He is great with the ball in his hands. He can shoot and pass. He can play the pick-and-roll, and he can also put the ball on the floor."
- Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas, to Eurohoops.com