Thunder Waive Aleksej Pokusevski

The Thunder have cut forward Aleksej Pokusevski from their 15-man roster, the team announced today in a press release. Pokusevski will become a free agent on Sunday if he goes unclaimed on waivers.

The No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Pokusevski flashed some tantalizing upside in his first three-and-a-half NBA seasons. However, 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, logging 60 total minutes.

Given his lack of a role and his expiring contract, Pokusevski was a candidate to be on the move at this month’s deadline, but has now been waived instead after not being in included in a trade. Barring an unexpected waiver claim, the Thunder will remain on the hook for his 2023/24 cap hit of $5,009,633.

Pokusevski is still just 22 years old, so as long as he’s healthy, there will likely be rebuilding teams that explore taking a flier on him. John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link) wonders if the Wizards might kick the tires on the young forward, given that general manager Will Dawkins was in Oklahoma City’s front office when he was drafted. For what it’s worth, Pokusevski remains eligible this season to sign a two-way contract.

As for the Thunder, they open up a spot on their 15-man roster as a result of the move. That opening doesn’t have to be filled immediately — it could be used to explore the buyout market, sign someone to a 10-day contract, or perhaps promote one of their two-way players.

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