Could Aleksej Pokuševski be the Sixers’ Serbian Savior

Had it not been for the suspended NBA season, the draft would have already taken place and the Sixers’ would already have their new rookie(s). Life had different plans in-mind as the draft now won’t take place until October 16. The level of difficulty in scouting draft prospects is exponentially increased this year due to COVID-19. Interviews, workouts, the whole process has been flipped upside down. The one benefit (if you could call it that) is that teams will now have four extra months to evaluate prospects as best they can.

The Sixers especially need to be as thorough as possible as their recent draft success has been questionable at best. For every Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Matisse Thybulle, there is a Markelle Fultz, Jahlil Okafor, and Anžejs Pasečņiks (whom you probably don’t even remember). The Sixers are lucky to currently have a first round pick at all in this draft as it is top 20 protected and no one expected the Thunder to be competitive, let alone the fifth seed in the West.

The sad truth is that the Sixers aren’t even guaranteed their first round pick as the Thunder could slip down the standings after the NBA season resumes. Until that day though the Sixers must prepare as if the pick is their own. With that said, there is one prospect who’s flying under the radar as of right now but is slowly climbing higher and higher on draft boards.


Aleksej Pokuševski

Not to be confused with Anžejs Pasečņiks, Aleksej Pokuševski has been referred by some as “Porziņģis lite”. A lanky stretch four, Pokuševski has an ability to shoot, defend, and even handle the ball that gives him immense potential.

While Pokuševski has this incredible potential for a prospect who may be available in the 20s, there is no guarantee he reaches that potential. Pokuševski can be described as having a sky-high ceiling and a floor as low as the bottom of the dead sea. Maybe that’s a bit of hyperbola, but even so, the difference is extremely drastic.


Pros

Pokuševski’s numbers may not have shown it, but he has loads of shooting potential. The Serbian big man will need more time in the gym to perfect his shot but the bones are there. His form, release point, and footwork all land in the plus column and if Pokuševski puts in the reps, there’s no reason he can’t be a Porziņģis level shooter.

Pokuševski has also shown an ability to defend especially in a team setting. His awareness may need some work but when he’s focused, he shows good anticipation when rotating. As Pokuševski increases his strength, he has the potential to become serviceable protecting the rim. He won’t ever be confused with Embiid or even Richaun Holmes but he could hold his own. Think Spencer Hawes.

Pokuševski is also an impressive ball-handler for his size. He’s comfortable whether in the half-court or pushing the pace in transition. He has great vision and pulls off some passes most guards dream of. No matter the situation he knows not only where to find the open man, but how to get him the ball which would make him a huge addition in the half-court. As the rest of his offensive game develops, Pokuševski’s passing game should open up even more. It’s absolutely insane to talk about a seven footer who can potentially run the PnR as the ball-handler, and yet here Pokuševski stands.


Cons

Pokuševski’s shooting percentages are an obvious concern. He only managed to shoot 40% from the floor and 32% from three this season per Tankathon. This is an obvious red flag as those numbers are unlikely to increase right away against the increased physicality of the NBA. Again, Pokuševski has plenty of shooting potential but that doesn’t mean anything until he reaches it.

Pokuševski is also rail thin. The seven footer barely weighs more than 200 pounds which would severely limit him in the NBA setting. He is likely to make that a priority if/when he is drafted to an NBA team, however. Even Porziņģis had a similar battle when he was drafted. Porziņģis was listed at 7’2″ and only weighed 210 pounds. The “Latvian Lazer” knew right away what he had to do, and added about 15 pounds between the draft and training camp. If Pokuševski shows similar commitment then this is a non-issue but that’s easier said than done.

While Pokuševski is a decent team defender he doesn’t add much, if any, value in the post. He’s a decent shot-blocker but he often lacks motivation on the defensive end which is another issue itself. Pokuševski needs to be engaged more defensively if he wants to have any impact.

He is also sloppy all too often. While Pokuševski is a talented passer, he’s very aware of it and this leads to some head scratching plays that make him look more like a wannabe Globetrotter than an NBA player. Pokuševski will need to show more focus on both ends of the court to maximize his potential.


Player Comparison

Ceiling – Porziņģis Jr.

Pokuševski’s ceiling is simple, if everything goes right and he puts in the work, he’ll look like Porziņģis. That’s a lot to ask of any rookie though, and maybe he could be that good, but it’s a lot more realistic to expect a “mini me” version.

Floor – Spencer Hawes

Pokuševski’s floor may not be as dire as “as low as the bottom of the dead sea,” but there is a visible difference between Porziņģis and Hawes. Spencer Hawes was a good player in his respect though and if that’s who Pokuševski’s career mirrors, he certainly can’t be labeled a bust. Perhaps a disappointment.

Mandatory Credit – © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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