Aleksej Pokusevski Scouting Report by Zachary Smith

With the amount of content we have in the pipeline and the amazing scouts that are proving themselves, Zachary has done an amazing bit of work in uncovering a dark horse in the 2020 NBA Draft for us. Poku is a real asset and has a chance to make a big impact in the NBA. Here is Zachary’s take on this amazing young talent:


Aleksej Pokusevski

2020 draft age: 18.5

Measurements: 7’0” / 200lb / 7’3” wingspan / 9’1” standing reach

Advanced Stats: 25 AST% / 21.4 REB% / 3.1 STL% / 8.5 BLK %

105.4 OFF RTG and 84.4 DEF RTG for a +21 NET RTG

52.1 TS% on 25.91%

Financial Information:

Buyout from Olympiacos set at $1 million if he is drafted before the 20th pick… could increase to $1.5 million if he is a lottery pick… Contract expires in summer 2024… NBA team can payout a max of $750 thousand… Rest of buyout falls on Poku to pay… Low chance of draft and stash…

Background:

Born in Serbia… Goes by Poku… Joined Olympiacos youth team in 2015… Participated in 2019 Basketball Without Borders Camp… Youngest Olympiacos EuroLeague player in team history… Led FIBA U18 play with 4 blocks per game… Currently plays in the Greek A2 Basket League for Olympiacos…

Personality:

Said in an interview that he wouldn’t change anything about his character and that he can’t stand laziness in other people… Wants to donate money to repair his village at home with his rookie contract…

Injury History:

Missed 3 months of play with a knee injury… Saw minimal playing time in one EuroLeague game and 16.5 MPG off the bench in three A2 games compared to 25.6 MPG as a starter before the injury… No public details of exact injury, team physicals could be crucial to his draft stock…

Athleticism:

Needs to put on at least 20-30 pounds of muscle… Good sprinter in transition… Questionable motor at times… Gets up vertically without having to load… Good one and two foot jumper… Inconsistent balance on his jumpers… Struggles making cross court passes due to lack of strength… High center of gravity hurts his lateral quickness…

Projected Fit:

Stretch 4

Projected Draft Landing: Between picks 20-40

The above video is a compilation of Poku’s assists, scoring, steals, blocks, offensive and defensive rebounding across 19 games he has played for Olympiacos (covering Euroleague, A2 as well as NT action) – courtesy of InStat Basketball the service provider of Advance Pro Basketball

Career Projections:

High:

Poku is a very good perimeter shooter who excels at shooting off screening actions. He creates well for others out of the pick and rolls and post. He is streaky as a finisher outside of his dunks. He isn’t a player that will draw a lot of fouls. His offensive production makes him a top 50 player in the league. On the defensive end, he is a playmaker. He excels at rim protection and blocking shots. He also uses his wingspan and hand speed to secure steals in passing lanes and ripping slower bigs. He can’t bang in the post with stronger NBA players, but is above average. Quicker guards with good triple threat fakes can beat him to the rim as well. He is an excellent defensive rebounder because of his timing and quick vertical jump.

Medium:

Poku is a good catch and shoot player and is below average at creating shots for himself. In transition, he can create for others and get to the rim, but he stays on the perimeter outside of that. He struggles at times to make the simple read and forces the action. Defensively, he sticks to guarding 3s and stretch 4s due to the fact that he has not put on enough muscle. He is a good rim protector who can block shots in transition and half court. He gambles frequently in passing lanes and by overplaying his man. He gets empty steals this way, giving up positioning and open baskets. He is a good defensive rebound, but does not have an impact on the offensive glass.

Low:

Poku is a streaky shooter with a low usage rate. He operates in movement. His ball handling is suspect, stalling his transition game, and his creation for others is limited due to superior athletes clogging passing lanes. He never develops a post game. He does not attack the offensive glass because he plays strictly on the perimeter. On defense, he is strictly a secondary shot blocker who guards stretch 4s. He isn’t laterally quick enough to guard wings and is marginal in the post. He is an average rebounder who’s potential isn’t reached due to his lack of strength. He faces recurring injuries due to his height and limited muscle.

Offense:

Strengths:

Shooting Off Movement:

Poku is a wing in a seven footers body. He accelerates, decelerates, and rises vertically very quickly when running off screens for his jumper. He has really good footwork when squaring up to the basket. It isn’t the most consistent but when he is in rhythm and feeling his shot, it is excellent. Poku is fluid shooting off handoffs, both behind the screen and off the dribble. He has one of the fastest jumpshot releases out of all the bigs in this draft. He is good at creating space off the catch with quick thinking and good footwork. He typically won’t kill actions by dominating the ball. He either takes the shot, creates space with a few dribbles, or makes the swing pass immediately. He has confidence from NBA range and even his misses look good. He had a decent sample size with 53 attempts over 11 games at 32.1% from deep. That isn’t a good percentage, but you’ve got to put into perspective that he is a seven foot tall, 18 year old that shoots off down screens like a wing. If he gets his percentages up, he will provide excellent value as a shooter.

Passing:

He is a good passer for his size. He had a 25 AST% for the season along with a 1.7 AST/TO ratio. The assist to turnover ratio stands out especially because a good amount of his turnovers are correctable. Out of a 9 game sample on Instat, 35% of his turnovers were on post passes. Specifically, he tries to make chest passes to the post when it should be a bounce pass and that he took the wrong angles. He tries to force passes from the top of the key to the post instead of being patient and making that pass from the wing, specifically below the free throw line. Only 25% of his turnovers were from poor passes and passing reads. It was a small sample, but does show his precision. He jumps on his passes a lot, especially when they are cross court. This is due to his fundamental lack of strength. He is a very versatile passer who can make tough reads. He sees a lot of passing lanes, the question is whether or not he can build enough strength to consistently make those passes.

Transition:

Poku is very good in transition, especially for a big. He pushes the ball immediately after rebounds and is a playmaker. In Greek 2A transition plays, he put up 1.17 PPP according to Synergy. His handle is loose in the fast break and is susceptible to getting stripped. He forces shots at times when attacking in transition. The majority of his paint points come in transition as he gets above the rim quickly when he has space to operate. His passing vision is very good and his momentum in transition helps him get his passes to his targets without floating them. He sees a lot of passes that most bigs wouldn’t see. When off the ball in transition, Poku works well as a trailing big. He is willing to launch from deep and can easily pop from drag screens. If he is leading the pack in transition, he tends to head to the wing instead of rim running.

Areas of Improvement:

Shooting Consistency:

Poku has a really good jumper but it is extremely inconsistent. He will drop his follow through quickly and speed up his release when he notices a close out. He has the length to finish his jumper above basically any close out, so there is no need for him to change his release. The best shooters in the world have one thing in common, consistency. His jumper looks a lot better from deep than midrange as well. His footwork is awkward from the midrange. He puts his feet directly together before jumping instead of keeping them shoulder width apart. Due to him taking more contested shots in the midrange, he also moves in the air during his shot to avoid defenders. Poku doesn’t play like he doesn’t realize that he’s a seven footer at times. When shooting off the dribble, Poku struggles at decelerating and rising in one motion. He tends to move forward in this action, resulting in his shot going long. He also doesn’t really have a floater or runner to his game.

Interior Scoring:

Poku struggles to score in the paint. His weight is a huge issue here. He plays like a much smaller player when scoring around the rim, staying below the rim unless he’s in transition. He has poor percentages around the rim and tends to completely avoid taking shots around the rim. In the half court he sticks to perimeter scoring for the most part. He lacks the strength to even attempt possessions in the post. Currently I would only use him in the post versus guards who switched on him. One action that I think could be beneficial for him would be having an off-ball guard set a cross screen for him when teams are switching off-ball screens.

Screening:

Poku struggles with screening due to his lack of strength and he knows it. Most screens he set in A2 play were ghost screens. He has bad form when setting screens, shuffling his feet and raising his arms. He doesn’t get close enough for ball handlers to take the right angles and run defenders off his screens. This brings into question his ability to take a hit from a defender. He needs to put on weight if he wants to be successful as the screener in the P&R and P&P. With his current technique, NBA refs will certainly call him for illegal screens. He needs to fix his footwork, take correct angles, and use his frame to create contact.

Defense:

Strengths:

Rim Protection:

Poku is a good rim protector for his age. He stays vertical most of his time and uses his length to affect shots. He had a good shoot blocking percentage of 8.5%. This shows a high level of activity around the rim. He typically doesn’t finish drives as the primary rim defender, losing interest quickly. Most of his work in rim protection comes as a secondary defender. He does a good job of staying disciplined on pump fakes. Strength is still an issue when it comes to defending attempts in the post. If he gets sealed on the high side, it’s basically an automatic basket. Poku can block shots even when he’s beat off the dribble. There’s multiple times this season that he’s hustled back in transition for impressive chasedown blocks. His rim protection will come down to whether he can add strength and give consistent effort.

Rebounding:

Poku is a really good defensive rebounder. He averaged 6.6 defensive rebounds per game in only 23 minutes per game. This has led to a ridiculous 35.7% defensive rebounding percentage, that would lead the NBA in qualified players. Obviously this won’t translate directly to NBA play because he just finished playing A2 basketball in Greece. This does point to Poku having excellent potential as a rebounder. He consistently hustles on the defensive boards and his combination of vertical and length gives him a huge range on the glass. Poku turns and pushes the ball quickly after he grabs boards, creating extra opportunities in transition.

Areas of Improvement:

Gambling:

Poku gambles for steals frequently. There are possessions where he is in a solid defensive position and gives that up to try to swipe at the ball. On possessions where Poku is beat off the dribble, he will try to poke the ball from behind instead of recovering. When his man gets the first step on him, there isn’t much effort shown to recover. This results in easy baskets and pointless fouls. Another issue he has with gambling is after turnovers. Instead of running back on defense, Poku will attack the ball handler and try to get the ball back immediately. He needs to have the mentality of making up for the turnover on defense, not by risking fouls. In U17 play vs Argentina, he lost his cool and elbowed an Argentinian player to the ground who was completely out of the play. Can he avoid foul trouble and stay on the floor?

Close Outs:

Poku struggles with his closeouts. He struggles with decelerating, and that can lead to getting beat off the dribble. Once he gets beat, he typically just gives up on the play and relies on his teammates to finish the play. When he does lock in, he can rotate his hips well to keep in front of defenders, but his footwork is very hit or miss. His balance and posture looks like the root of some of his problems in this area. As long as Poku works on his consistency, he can be a much better perimeter defender.

Best Team Fits:

Boston:

Boston has 3 first round picks and 4 total picks this year and has the depth to use one of those picks on a long term project. If Hayward and Kanter accept their options, then the Celtics might not have enough roster spots on their NBA roster for all their draftees. This gives room for the Celtics to buy out Poku’s contract and let him develop in the Maine G League system. Horford’s departure left a dent in Boston’s rotation of bigs. Poku would have a great place to develop and grow.

Milwaukee:

The Bucks need to find the successor to Brook Lopez. Lopez is under contract for 3 more seasons, which gives time for Poku to develop under his rookie contract. He has Giannas as a role model in the weight room. Giannas also entered the league at around 200 pounds, but has since put on over 30 pounds of muscle. Korver can also help Poku with his shooting form and consistency. This would honestly be one of the best situations for Poku to grow. It’s just a question of does Milkwaukee want to get a 4 year college player who can play immediately or develop another potential star along their veteran group of players.

Toronto:

Siakam, VanVleet, Boucher, and Powell are current Raptors players who have spent time with the Raptors 905. Toronto has a legitimate pipeline with their G League team. This would be a great place for Poku to develop after Toronto buys him out of his Olympiacos contract. Toronto will see many of its veterans hitting free agency this year, including Marc Gasol. I doubt Toronto will start a complete reset and let their veterans walk, especially after Kawhi and Green did. Poku could see NBA minutes immediately if he ends up in this situation.

Portland:

Leonard Meyers was key to Portland’s playoff run last season before he left for Miami. Poku could be a legitimate replacement for the stretch 4. Poku also shows much more potential as a defender, passer, and athlete than Leonard. Portland has over 70 million dollars attached to Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic for next season. Portland needs to find solid supporting wings and bigs with their draft picks. Poku can act as a third or fourth creator and shoot the lights out of the ball.

Overall Outlook:

Poku has the potential to be a really good player. He is a seven footer with the offensive game of a wing. He can shoot off screens unlike most bigs and act as a secondary creator. He pushes the ball well in transition and looks for his teammates. He needs to put on muscle if he wants to be successful at the NBA level. Poku is a defensive playmaker who struggles with his intensity at times. He can turn into a successful defender if he becomes more disciplined. Poku is a long term project with the potential to be a career starter.


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