Long story short, our model projects Aleksej Pokusevski as having the highest ceiling in this year's draft. Yes, that's above the other Euro prospects universally ranked higher than him like Killian Hayes and Deni Avdija. And yes, also higher than James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, and LaMelo Ball.
Pokusevski is painfully skinny, has a few statistical red flags, and played in what may or may not be middle school gyms this year. He's an imperfect prospect, but he balls. He's who we thought Thon Maker was. He's a 7-footer with range and the handle of a guard, and his passing may be his best skill. Is he Ben Simmons if he traded 40 pounds of muscle for a jump shot? Probably not, but don't say we didn't warn you.
- As mentioned above, Pokusevski is an elite passer for a big. He posted 4.8 assists per 36, putting him second all time amongst bigs in our database. The only big who put up more? Ben Simmons, of course, with 4.9 per 36
- Pokusevski was first all time for bigs on threes taken (7.5 per 36) and second for threes made (2.4 per 36). Our model gave him a strong grade of 78/100 as a shooter
- He was a deflections machine on defense. He had 2.0 steals per 36 (95th percentile for bigs) and blocked 2.8 shots per 36 (78th percentile for bigs)
- His best skill according to our model was his 92/100 grade for his rebounding
- He's the youngest player in our database
- You'd want Pokusevski to have shot better from three to have full confidence in his stroke. 32% shooting leaves something to be desired. The 78% he shot from the line along with his youth (he'll still be 18 on draft night) does give hope that he'll improve here, however
- He projects as a mediocre scorer. He was graded as a 60/100 by our model. He had a weak 52% true shooting percentage, and only got to the line 3.3 times per 36 (12th percentile for bigs). This is one area his lack of strength really hurts him
- We had a small sample size of data to use in his projection, with only 11 games worth from his time in the HEBA A2 league (Greece's second best league)
Pokusevski is a unique prospect. Our model agrees, shown by its suggestion that his closest comparable prospect, Rodions Kurucs, is only an 86% match. There's elements of Ben Simmons to his game, with their special handles and vision despite their size. There's also whiffs of Nerlens Noel with a jumper, a point guard Porzingis, or a 7 foot Lonzo, depending how creative you want to get.
Whoever you'd like to compare him to as a prospect, it's clear that Pokusevski has an elite hoops IQ. He sees the floor extremely well on offense, and has great timing on defense. He has two skills that will transfer to the NBA instantly in his above average passing and rebounding ability. I'd also wager that on day one he'll be able to knock down catch and shoot threes, and may be able to guard less aggressive wings.
That already sounds like a useful player in today's NBA to me. And if Pokusevski can improve his strength, his three point shooting, and his defensive footwork, then we may be talking about the next unicorn here.
- Our Comp: Toni Kukoc
- Suggested Draft Range: Top 5
- Immediate Impact: Low (lacks strength and mass for many matchups, potentially a 3&D wing)
- Long Term Potential: High (top-end point forward, 15 PPG / 10 RPG / 7 APG)
Here's a comparison of Pokusevski as a prospect versus Ben Simmons. They only rate as 70% similar as prospects, but there's a few things here that are eerily alike, including their playing style (bottom left) and their per 36 numbers for rebounds, assists, and steals: