The Oklahoma City Thunder traded Aleksej Pokusevski with the 17th pick over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2020 NBA draft. The OKC Thunder telegraphed his love for Pokusevski throughout the pre-draft process, which the Dallas Mavericks used as leverage to force Sam Presti to jump up the draft and nab her man.
Always a project player, Aleksej Pokusevski invested OKC Thunder in understanding that it was a home run swing. When he pivots forward and hits the ceiling, he’s a 7-foot playmaker with an excellent side defense that has allowed him to hit nearly one shot attempt per game.
The OKC Thunder are two games in this experiment and Pokusevski has weathered his fair share of adversity. His rookie season didn’t include a Summer League due to Covid, they had a shortened training camp, a shortened preseason and a regular season in his debut season in the NBA. As a sophomore, the team focused on individual training, keeping him away from the NBA Summer League that summer. During that second season, it took Aleksej Pokusevski one G-League stint to get back on track.
Pokusevski, now in his third year, played in his first NBA Summer League and is facing a perfectly healthy offseason, long training camp and long preseason. Pokusevski has a lot to prove in his third year as OKC Thunder’s roster improves around him, still has a trove of draft picks and gradually transitions from rebuilding to fighting.
The 20-year-old power forward will need to prove he belongs in the league as he is owed $3.2m this season and has a $5m club option in 2023-24. This could be a crucial season for the 2020 first-rounder.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are blocking Aleksej Pokusevski from playing for Team Serbia in the Eurobasket and want him to focus on the 2022-23 NBA season
The OKC Thunder still values Pokusevski and want to invest in his development, they also want to decide his future, is he a play, a roster spot, do they have to be accountable to move forward? As such, his preparation this off-season and his game on the floor throughout the season will be hugely important to his future with the organization.
It was announced this week by the senior national team selector for Team Serbia that the roster “has not received permission from its teams” to add Aleksej Pokusevski and Miami Heat rookie Nikola Jokic to the roster. Both organizations cite NBA preparation as the reason.