In a draft with several domestic born prospects who cut their teeth abroad this past season, Aleksej Pokusevski is this year’s true international man of mystery, an 18-year-old from Serbia who has shown off a tantalizing skillset for a 7-footer, mostly for Olympiacos’ A2 League team. As the youngest player in the draft, his upside is obvious, but how realistic are his chances of reaching it?
Weight: 208 pounds
Standing reach: 9’1
- Extremely impressive dribble/pass package for a 7-footer, perhaps unlike any other player in modern memory at that height and age
- Outstanding vision, sees floor well and will make passes few would even dare to attempt
- Quick shooting release, absolute green light to launch
- Handled and shot the ball in variety of situations: off screens, in transition, from high post, etc.
- Very aggressive and confident, and has a flair for the spectacular
- Not a post player at this stage, and may never be, given body type
- Streetball style moves result in high turnovers, though even his lowlights are usually still pretty impressive
- Instincts pop on this end of the floor as well; shows great anticipation, racked up blocks and steals
- Lack of bulk obviously hurts him here. Will get pushed around inside, probably won’t ever be true defensive anchor
- Not a tremendous lateral mover, but should be quick enough to play either big spot depending on matchups, thanks to size and awareness
- Will at times get caught out of position, or gambling for steals. Like the rest of his game, experience via game reps are crucial for his development
Active Player Comparisons
If everything goes right: Some insane hybrid of Davis Bertans and Diet Nikola Jokic?
If everything goes wrong: Dragan Bender after starving himself
Most realistic outcome: I have no idea. To be frank, I don’t love comparisons, and perhaps more than any player in this draft, Pokusevski is a hard player to compare with. This is why one of a kind prospects tend to be undervalued. Who could have guessed what Steph Curry or Draymond Green would become?
Stats and Accomplishments
3 Key Things
1. The Upside
Pokusevski will still be 18 when the NBA season begins in December. He is years from his prime and in a draft that is universally considered weak at the top, Poku is one of the few prospects with All-Star potential who could fall out of the lottery and in to Dallas’ range. With both the 18th and 31st pick, the Mavs might have the opportunity to take a gamble with someone like Pokusevski at 18, and still find a guy at 31 who is “safe” and help right away.
2. The Risk
There are two main issues here, and these are the reasons Aleksej isn’t a guaranteed top=10 pick like Deni Avdija. The first is his weight: he is rail thin, his head looks photoshopped on to an alien body with a giraffe neck and slenderman arms. He will absolutely need to put on weight if he has any shot at playing serious minutes in the NBA. This is why I would advocate him spending next season in the G League, instead of being “stashed” in Europe somewhere. Get him in an NBA quality strength program sooner rather than later. The second issue is that, for as impressive as his highlights are, this tape is all from a dozen or so games against second tier level opponents, who a future NBA player frankly should dominate. Until we see it against a higher quality competition, it’s simply impossible to know just what kind of talent we’re dealing with here.
3. One of one
I touched on this a little already, but one of the things I’d really like to stress is that the biggest steals in the draft are usually the guys who defy classification, who have no obvious guy to be compared with, and who do things that simply don’t seem repeatable at the NBA level. That’s Poku. Yes, this came against the A2 Leauge, but the more you watch Aleksej, the more you see a player who is discovering in real time the scope of his own ability. Trying behind the back dribble moves in traffic, or step back threes in the corner, or leaving guards in the dust in transition with hesitation or quick change of direction. He’s still reaching further and further into his bag of tricks to find where the limit is. If things work out, Poku probably won’t be like anyone else in the league. He’ll just be the first Poku.
Role with the Mavericks
Almost certainly, Pokusevski would spend next year either in the G League or in Europe, working on his game and his body. Ideally, after a full G League season, he’d maybe get a cup of coffee with the big club, just to get his feet wet and get some extra time with the players and coaching staff. How quickly he might progress and be ready to actually contribute is anyone’s guess, but if and when he did get to that point, he would give Carlisle even more options in the frontcourt, either as someone who could play next to Porzingis in a big lineup, or come off the bench and wreak havoc putting second unit bigs on skates with his dribble moves. While it’s unreasonable to expect him to be able to have the bulk of the offense run through him a la Jokic, his passing skill and vision would give the Mavs all sorts of cool wrinkles, like running a Poku/KP pick and roll…or maybe even having Luka be the screen setter for Poku. You could also bring back some horns sets, like the Mavs ran with Zaza Pachulia and tried to with the bloated corpse of Andrew Bogut.
Poku is a homerun swing. He doesn’t address the most obvious area of need, and he likely won’t be ready for at least a year, if ever. With Dallas still owing two future first round picks to the Knicks, I can understand why some might feel it’s best for the Mavs to draft conservatively and make their push for a title right now with an MVP caliber Luka. Still, the draft is about talent, and it’s the one avenue for a small or mid market team to acquire high level talent, even if they’re not in the lottery. Dallas can find a safer upperclassman type at pick 31, and fill out the roster with vets via free agency or trades. But if Aleksej Pokusevski is still on the board when Dallas comes on the clock, I’m going to be hoping they call his name. Just get ready for more jokes about the Mavs’ being the franchise of the white Euro.