Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospects: Aleksej Pokusevski
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As the NBA Draft draws nearer, one thing is for certain, we don’t know who will be on the board for the Utah Jazz with the 23rd overall pick. One mock draft may project a player to get drafted in the top 10. Meanwhile, another outlet may have that player dropping to the mid-20s. Such is the case for Serbian big man Aleksej Pokusevski, one of the draft’s most polarizing players.
In our earlier European prospects preview, we opted to skip on evaluating Pokusevski as he was largely projected to be drafted well ahead of the Jazz pick. Now, more outlets seem to believe he could be on the board when the Jazz are draft. As a result, we’re adding his profile to our database.
Aleksej Pokusevski: 7’0, 201 lbs Big – Olympiacos B
9.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 40% FG/32% 3p/78% FT
Aleksej Pokusevski is an extremely intriguing European draft prospect due to his elite measurables and athletic fluidity. Seven footers with Pokusevski’s ability to run the floor, change direction, and handle the ball with such control are a rare breed.
The Serbian big man moves like a modern small forward despite having measurables comparable to those of Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. There simply aren’t many humans who have that combination of size and mobility on the planet.
Increasing Pokusevski’s stock is the fact that he already shows an above-average feel for the game. Unlike some unicorn bodies found in remote gyms, Pokusevski has been around the game of basketball honing his skills.
The big man showed promise as both a scorer and playmaker, using his handle to get to the rim, pull up with touch, or find open teammates after drawing in defenders.
Additionally, the Serbian possesses an impressive 7’3 wingspan, allowing him to function as a weakside shot blocker and an effective closeout defender on perimeter shooters.
Despite his elite physical tools, Pokusevski is unproven against upper-echelon competition. Having played with Olympiacos B, Pokusevski doesn’t have the same proven pro career as other draft eligible players like Leandro Bolmaro or Theo Maledon.
The Serbian has a fluid shot release, but the results aren’t necessarily pretty. Pokusevski connected on just 32 percent of his three-point attempts last season which is not miserable, but far from elite. To truly unlock his offensive potential he’ll have to prove he’s a consistent threat from the three-point line, and that remains a work in progress.
Before he’ll be able to play significant minutes in the NBA Pokusevksi will have to put significant work into his body. Weighing just over 200 lbs, the Serbian will get pushed around by smaller forwards on both sides of the ball and won’t be able to defend bigger players beyond weak-side shot-blocking.
The team that drafts Pokusevski won’t get an immediate contributor and will have to be patient as his game and body develop.
How Would Pokusevski Fit With The Jazz In The Draft?
With a strong starting lineup and a group of young stars entering their prime, the Jazz could justify taking a swing on a first-round draft pick with high upside like Pokusevski. The odds of finding a player who steps in and contributes right away with the 23rd pick are slim, so drafting a player that might add the most to the roster a few years down the line is a fine strategy.
Though Bojan Bogdanovic has shown terrific durability throughout his career, his eventual decline could fit nicely alongside Poksevski’s development as his eventual successor with a similar offensive skillset.
Of the players that could be available late in the first round when the Jazz are selecting, Pokusevski has the unique combination of size and skill that could turn into a franchise piece if the front office is patient with his development. That same model has paid dividends for Rudy Gobert, and could potentially be replicated over the next few years.
However, having traded away last year’s first-round pick, and owing Memphis next year’s first-rounder, drafting a player that likely won’t offer immediate help leaves the Jazz with a lack of young contributors on the roster.
Having those young pieces on cost-controlled contracts alleviates the salary cap jam that occurs when paying stars max level contracts on contending teams. As both Gobert and Donovan Mitchell are up for high priced extensions, finding a player that can play reliable minutes over the next few seasons may have more value than taking a risk on a player with Pokusevski’s upside.
Additional Prospect Breakdowns: