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Aleksej Pokusevski: Year 2

Aleksej Pokusevski: Year 2

When Poku entered the 2020 NBA Draft, little was known about him. Aside from a few clips of him playing in Greece, hardly any film of his game was available. Add to that the difficulties of traveling and scouting during a global pandemic, and Poku was a true international mystery man.

With OKC embarking on a comprehensive rebuild, Sam Presti swung for the fences, and traded up to select Poku with the 17th pick. It was a true all-in gamble, hoping that the Thunder’s established track record of development and culture could transform Poku into the best possible version of himself to play for OKC.

As we head into Poku’s second year, a lot has been learned about his game and personality, yet, like his potential, it seems we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s there.

During his Rookie campaign, Poku demonstrated immense confidence in himself and his abilities. Every single night, no matter who the opponent was, Poku went out there with the belief that he belonged in this League. The results varied greatly. There were moments when he clearly showed that he was the youngest player in the NBA with much to learn, and other moments when he was doing things not possible for about 97% of the League. Often, these great highs and lows would happen in the same game, just minutes apart. It was a frenetic season for Poku.

Things settled down a bit for Poku after he went to the G League Bubble to get consistent playing time and developmental focus with the Blue staff. After having a very productive stint with the Blue, Poku was called back up to the Thunder, and finished the season with the main squad. Poku’s play noticeably stabilized as he was able to string together some quality performances to end the season.

Going into the offseason, Poku had a clear focus on strength and conditioning, as getting stronger was paramount for his development going forward. In fact, OKC was so focused on Poku’s physical development, that he was held out of Summer League and given his own summer regimen program to follow. His progress is of the upmost importance to the organization.

As Coach Daigneault said at the start of training camp, Poku is extremely young and needed to make physical progress to sustain himself in the NBA. Now that training camp is in full swing, and preseason games have started, we should get a better grasp on just how well Poku matches up physically this year in the NBA.

Heading into his second year in the NBA, Poku remains a fascinating prospect. At 7+ feet tall with a massive wingspan, agility, ball handling skills, and overall game like a guard, he is unlike anyone else in the NBA. Armed with an ironclad confidence in himself and his abilities, Poku does not shy away from a challenge, and embraces the NBA grind.

After a productive offseason, he looks poised to take a nice step forward this year in his developmental journey. Going forward, he remains a key wildcard for this Thunder rebuild. If he truly takes a big step forward, and shows significant progress, he can help fast-track this Thunder rebuild.