Hornets Sign Aleksej Pokusevski

FEBRUARY 28: The Hornets have officially signed Pokusevski, the team announced today in a press release. Charlotte terminated Bolden’s 10-day contract early in order to open up a roster spot (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 27: The Hornets are expected to sign forward Aleksej Pokusevski, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Pokusevski became a free agent after being cut by the Thunder last Friday and clearing waivers on Sunday.

The No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Pokusevski showed plenty of promise in his first three-and-a-half NBA seasons in Oklahoma City, but his development was hindered by health issues. He was limited to just 34 games (25 starts) in 2022/23 due largely to a leg fracture that sidelined him for about three months, then broke his arm during a workout in the spring of 2023 and sprained his ankle this past September.

Pokusevski got off to a strong start in ’22/23, averaging 8.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 20.6 minutes per game across his 34 appearances, with career-best shooting rates of 43.4% from the field and 36.5% from the three-point line. But those injuries ended the seven-footer’s season early and he only saw garbage-time action in 10 games this season for the Thunder, logging 60 total minutes.

While Pokusevski theoretically could’ve been included in the trade that sent Gordon Hayward to Oklahoma City earlier this month, the Hornets instead acquired Tre Mann, Vasilije Micic, and Davis Bertans in that deal. The Thunder subsequently waived the 22-year-old, who was on an expiring $5MM contract and was no longer part of their future plans.

Now the Hornets are in position to add Pokusevski at a lower cost, though the exact details of his new deal have yet to be reported, so it’s unclear if he’ll earn more than the minimum or if the team will get any control beyond this season.

Charlotte currently has a full 15-man standard roster. However, one of the team’s 15 players – Marques Bolden – is on a 10-day contract that will expire this Thursday night. Pokusevski figures to take Bolden’s roster spot, either after that 10-day deal expires or perhaps earlier, if the Hornets terminate it before the 10-day mark.

Despite a recent hot streak, the Hornets remain well out of the Eastern Conference play-in picture at 15-42, so they’ll be able to use the final month-and-a-half of the season to get a look at Pokusevski in relatively low-stakes games.

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