Aleksej Pokusevski, or “Poku” as he’s often referred to in writing by American writers for obvious reasons, is this year’s unknown international big. He’s a 7-footer who has displayed perimeter skills that no 7-footer should ever have. The internet is dotted with highlights of him throwing behind-the-back passes and draining step-back 3-point jumpers.
Bio and Stats
Age: 18 (turns 19 in late December)
Weight: 200 lbs
League Stats (Olympiacos B)
Per-Game Averages (11 games): 22.6 minutes, 10.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.8 blocks, 1.3 steals
Shooting Splits: 40.4% FG / 32.1% 3PT / 78.3% FT
FIBA U18 Euro Championship Stats (Serbia)
Per-Game Averages (6 games) 25.0 minutes, 10.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.0 blocks, 3.7 assists, 2.7 steals, 3.0 turnovers.
Shooting Splits 29.7% FG / 29.0% 3PT / 72.2% FT
Poku’s perimeter skills set him apart in a big way from other power forwards and centers. Here’s him coming off a screen for a pull-up 3-pointer (reminder, he’s seven feet tall)
I tune in to see Aleksej Pokusevski immediately doing normal 7-footer things pic.twitter.com/Ue9YHDBDMS— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) March 29, 2020
Then there’s this guard-esq off-ball movement and step-back 3-pointer
Normal things 6'11 players can do, again, featuring Aleksej Pokuševski.— Spencer (@SKPearlman) July 1, 2020
Off movement, pump fake, 1 dribble right, 1-2 stepback, 3 pointer. pic.twitter.com/RPgHZuKwR1
Aside from shooting, there’s Poku’s passing proficiency. Per36 minutes he averaged a hair under five assists per game for Olympiacos and was at 5.3 per game at FIBA in 2018 for Serbia. He’s nothing if not capable as a passer and can lead a fast break as much as run the floor like most other bigs do.
Right alongside the talk about Poku’s perimeter game is how much versatility he can bring on both ends. Obviously, a 7-footer listed as a shooting guard on his U18 FIBA profile can be dangerous on offense, defensive versatility, which is quickly becoming one of the most valuable traits for incoming players, is also on Poku’s list of strengths. He could potentially switch 3-5 at the NBA level and likely hold his own in spot situations against smaller guards.
Shooting-wise, his numbers don’t look great, but there’s every expectation that Poku can increase his percentages. Tankathon’s projected NBA 3-point percentage, based on both 3-point percentage and free throw shooting, has him at 37.0 percent.
While Poku is a potential out-of-the-park home run hit on draft day, he can also just as easily be a giant whiff and waste of a pick. Too much of his hype is based on what scouts, GMs, analysts and fans think he’ll be and very little on what he actually is right now.
Weight is one of the biggest concerns. Poku’s 200-pound listing (which might be a little generous) is troubling. Rudy Gobert weighed in at 237.6 pounds at the 2013 combine and one of his draft notes was that he needed to “bulk up.” If Poku’s going to play as a big, he needs to add around 40 pounds and that much weight could easily cut into his quickness that is one of his advantages.
Shooting is one of the main things in regards to can-be-but-isn’t-there-right-now projections for Poku. Right now he makes a little over 30 percent of his downtown shots which doesn’t draw any gravity at the NBA level. It has to improve or it’ll become a lot harder for Poku to reach his unicorn potential.
Fit with Utah
The Utah Jazz could certainly use a highly versatile two-way player to fit in at power forward. If they’re looking for an immediate contributor, Pokusevski may not be the way to go. He’s a long-term project who’s best years may not line up with the Donovan Mitchell/Rudy Gobert timeline.