Should the Sixers target Aleksej Pokuševski?

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey listens to a question during a news conference at the NBA basketball team’s training facility, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia 76ers desperately need to add a center to their team, with reigning MVP Joel Embiid still recovering from his injury. The Sixers are 4-6 since Joel Embiid went down against the Golden State Warriors and are trying to find a way to avoid the play-in tournament.

Many thought that the Sixers would acquire a center at the trade deadline to bring in reinforcements, but they were unable to accomplish this, with Buddy Hield and Cam Payne being the only acquisitions from trades. Andre Drummond appeared to be the big man target for Philadelphia, but the Chicago Bulls seemed unwilling to part with him and his expiring contract.

The free-agent market for centers isn’t exactly at its best right now. Guys like Willie Caulie-Stein, Nelens Noel, and Tony Bradley are some of the better names in free agency right now. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder just waived a seven-foot, 22-year-old former first-round pick into the free agency pool.

Aleksej Pokuševski, the No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has been released from the Thunder after appearing in only ten games this season. The Serbian big man has yet to reach the lofty expectations he had but could be a low-risk, high-reward player for the Sixers to target if they go that direction.

Pokusevki isn’t a perfect player at this point in his career. He has struggled with consistency over the past four years with the Thunder. He only has two seasons where he’s shot above 40.0% from the field and only one season where he shot over 30.0% from beyond the arc. That being said, last year was his best season so far, averaging 8.1 points and 4.7 rebounds on 43.4% from the field and 36.5% from three. His shooting percentage is much lower this season, but that’s because he’s only taken sixteen shots, making four of them.

Aleksej Pokusevski is a well of untapped potential and the Sixers could have the right mix of veteran leadership, low expectations, and excellent coaching to help turn him into a player who can provide serviceable minutes and substantial size on a team that needs both.

The Sixers have been out-rebounded in seven of their last ten games. Pokusevski, while not an Andre Drummond-level rebounder, averaged 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes played last season. Poku may not be the guy the Sixers go after at this point.

He is a young player with consistency issues who would need to be brought up to speed, and the Sixers could look to go for a more traditional big or someone who is a more veteran presence. At the end of the day, the Sixers just need to add someone who can stop the bleeding until Joel Embiid returns.