The 2020 NBA Draft has turned out to be much better than expected.
The class has been headlined by LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton and Anthony Edwards to this point of the season, but there are a number of other prospects with high upside who are worth getting excited about, from James Wiseman and Patrick Williams to Saddiq Bey and Desmond Bane.
There's also Aleksej Pokusevski.
Affectionately known as "Poku," the Serbian has appeared in 29 games with the Oklahoma City Thunder this season, 12 of which he's started in. The numbers he's posted in those games are nothing to write home about - he's averaging 6.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists on 31.5 percent shooting from the field as of this writing - but the Thunder selected him with the No. 17 pick knowing he'd be a project.
Despite his ups and downs, it's easy to see why the Thunder were drawn to Pokusevski.
NBA.com's Gilbert McGregor already covered some of the intrigue with him, but here are four plays that show off Pokusevski's fascinating potential.
Space it out
Let's start with something simple.
Pretty smooth for a 7-footer, huh?
Over half of Pokusevski's shot attempts this season have come from the 3-point line. The majority have been of the spot-up variety, but he hasn't shied away from taking the occasional shot off the dribble. The problem? He hasn't made either of them at a particularly high rate. Per NBA.com, he's connected on 28.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts and 8.0 percent of his pull-up 3-point attempts.
The combination makes Pokusevski one of the least efficient 3-point shooters in the league.
Clearly there's some work to be done, but it's worth remembering that he's a 19-year-old rookie who spent last season playing in Greece's A2 League. Some growing pains were to be expected. The encouraging sign is that he looks the part of a shooter and he's had some games in which he's gotten it rolling, like the one above when he scorched the Memphis Grizzlies by going 5-for-8 from 3-point range.
Despite the results so far, there's a number of reasons to believe that there's a capable 3-point shooter hidden in there.
Off the bounce
Imagine for a second that Pokusevski does get to a point where teams respect him from the 3-point line, both on the catch and on the move. Not only would it open up a world of possibilities for the Thunder, giving them a legitimate stretch four and a potential pick-and-pop partner, it would give him more opportunities to make plays for himself off the dribble.
Pokusevski is still so early in his development that there are a number of directions his career could go, but he already has an impressive amount of skill for a player his size. The Thunder have actually given him a decent amount of opportunities to run the offence this season, mostly out of the pick-and-roll. According to NBA.com, he's generated a whopping 24.2 percent of his offence as the ball handler on those plays, the fourth-highest rate on the team.
Once again, Pokusevski hasn't been particularly efficient - he ranks in the 6th percentile with 0.51 points per possession - but rarely do you see a 7-footer do things like snake a pick-and-roll and pull-up for a smooth midrange jumper.
That's a pick-and-roll involving two 7-footers, by the way. (The screener, Moses Brown, is listed at 7-foot-2). You don't see that often either. The Thunder might be the funkiest team in the league.
Meet me at the rim
How about some more guard-like skills?
This time, Pokusevski fakes a handoff, splits two defenders and rises up for a dunk that shot-blocking extraordinaire Robert Williams wants no part of.
It's fun to think about the lineups the Thunder could eventually deploy involving Pokusevski. He will likely always be best suited to play small forward or power forward given his slender frame - he's listed at 190 pounds - but lineups with him at centre could be dynamite offensively because it would give them the option of playing five-out while also having up to five players who can playmake.
Again, it remains to be seen what kind of player Pokusevski becomes, but part of the intrigue is that he has the potential to be almost anything.
Now for one of Pokusevski's best plays of the season...
Losing one of the league's better perimeter defenders would've been enough - rarely do you see someone shake Mikal Bridges like that - but to follow it up with a left-handed wraparound pass to Theo Maledon for an open look at a 3? That's tough.
If that doesn't get you lost in Pokusevski's potential, I don't know what will.
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