A lean string bean, Serbia’s Aleksej Pokuševski is a high-risk, high-reward prospect who played for Olympiacos last season. He could be available around the 18th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft when the Milwaukee Bucks are likely to be on the clock.
Weight: 201 pounds
Per Game Stats:
Aleksej Pokuševski has one of the widest range of outcomes as an NBA prospect. He flashed a ton of potential as an 18-year-old playing for Olympiacos last year, but his overall stats weren’t that impressive. Still, he has the size (7’0” tall with a 7’3” wingspan) and mobility to excel in the NBA if he can refine his craft and clean up some of his mechanics. Let’s take a deep dive into his game.
Mobility: Despite his size, Pokuševski moves like a guard—easily gliding across the court with or without the ball in his hands. This mobility gives him unique advantages against other bigs, as they struggle to stick with him. He routinely beats opponents up and down the court, providing him with an edge in transition. Watch how he receives the outlet pass in the following clip and ignites the break for his team before delivering an on time and on target bounce pass to his teammate. How many seven-footers move with that grace?
Handles: It’s not just his mobility that attracts scouts, he has great handles and passing vision for any prospect, nonetheless a seven-foot big. There’s a clear path to him running pick-and-rolls as the ball-handler in the NBA like he did with Olympiacos. Pairing him with Giannis Antetokounmpo in this scenario would make it extremely difficult on defenses.
Shooting Potential: Despite knocking down just 32.1 percent of his threes last season, the potential is there for Pokuševski to become an above-average shooter from downtown. He has good footwork and a quick release, allowing him to get his shots off in the tightest of spaces. He also flashed NBA range last season and isn’t afraid to fire away from anywhere. The fact he made 78.3 percent of his free throws last year is also an encouraging sign he’ll be able to continue developing his shot.
Areas for Improvement
Strength: The Ringer’s 2020 NBA Draft Guide has him listed at 201 pounds, but that might even be an exaggeration. Pokuševski is someone who could hide behind a stick. He’ll need to add muscle—lots of muscle—to reach his full potential at the next level. If he doesn’t, he’ll get bullied and pushed around on a consistent basis. It will also be difficult for him to unleash his full skill set if he has to constantly make up for his huge strength disadvantage.
Plays Under the Rim: Partly because of a lack of strength and partly due to a lack of vertical explosion, Pokuševski is an under the rim player. You won’t see him rise up in traffic and throw one down on his man despite a height and length advantage. Improving his strength will certainly help in this area, but the fact is he just lacks natural explosion on his vertical leap.
- I worry about a lack of touch on his shots from all over the court a la D.J. Wilson.
- Can take the ball the length of the court after a rebound.
- Questionable shot selection at times.
- Swallows shots around the rim as a weak side help-defender.
- Good vision and feel for when to pass.
- Great at finding a dumpoff man underneath the rim.
- Gets caught with the ball in the air too often without a plan.
Physical comparison: Kostas Antetokounmpo. Also shades of Dragan Bender in his play. (P.S. Check out this sweet tool you can use to find similar players based on physical measurements, advanced stats or per 40 stats)
Pokuševski is a swing for the fences type of player. He was very inconsistent for Olympiacos last year, but flashed enough potential to make him worth a flyer in the middle-to-late first round.
The dude moves with such ease that you often forget he’s seven feet tall. The way he glides around the court on both ends and with and without the ball is extremely intriguing. It’s this mobility that immediately jumps off the film at you.
He also has very good handles that should allow him to bring the ball up the court in transition and initiate the offense at times. He’s also an intriguing player in the pick-and-roll; capable of filling both roles.
He needs some work on his outside shot, but there are plenty of encouraging signs he’ll continue to get better. He can set his feet quickly when getting his shot off, and his height and quick release allow him to shoot with a hand in his face.
Check out the following clip, for example. His teammate looks for him as an outlet following the missed shot and he weaves in and out of the defense with the ball in his hands. He then drops it off to the trailer, before circling back and knocking down a deep three. There’s a lot to love in that clip.
Pokuševski is also a good team defender and weak side shot-blocker. He’s good at rotating over and helping his guys around the rim. His wingspan gives him an extra advantage and allows him to swallow ill-advised shots around the basket.
What it all comes down to his his strength and frame. It’s hard to project what type of weight a player will add throughout his career, or what kind of weight his body will even allow him to add. Not everybody has broad shoulders like Giannis Antetokounmpo to pack on lean muscle.
As it stands, Pokuševski isn’t nearly strong enough to successfully compete at the NBA level. He certainly knows this and will be working his tail off in the weight room. If he can add a good amount of lean muscle, he’ll have a better chance at succeeding at the next level. If he can’t, it’s difficult to imagine him being anything other than an end of the bench type player. The good news is he’s only 19-years-old.