Aleksej Pokusevski

G League Assignments: Pokusevski, Oturu, Magnay, Azubuike, Forrest

Thunder rookie big man Aleksej Pokusevski has averaged 17.4 minutes per game in 17 appearances but he’s headed to Orlando to join the G League’s Oklahoma City Blue, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The 17th overall pick, who played 20 minutes in a blowout loss to Houston on Monday, is shooting just 24.7% from the field and the team wants him to develop his offensive game.

Guard Ty Jerome and two-way players Moses Brown and Josh Hall are also going to Orlando. “A lot of time and effort has gone into deciding who to send and when to send them,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. “We felt like sending the four of them together, all for different reasons developmentally, was the best decision.”

We have more G League transactions from Western Conference clubs:

  • The Clippers assigned rookie big man Daniel Oturu to the Agua Caliente Clippers, according the RealGM transactions log. Oturu has appeared in 10 NBA games this season but has only averaged 4.2 MPG. He’s only gotten on the court once since January 22 and the organization wants Oturu to get some extended playing time during the bubble season in Orlando.
  • The Pelicans have transferred two-way player Will Magnay to the Erie BayHawks, the Pelicans’ PR department tweets. The 22-year-old rookie power forward out of Tulsa, who played in Australia last season, has not appeared in a game this season.
  • The Jazz duo of rookie center Udoka Azubuike and Trent Forrest are joining the Salt Lake City Stars, the G League team tweets. Azubuike, the team’s first-round pick out of Kansas, has made 12 limited appearances this season. Forrest, an undrafted guard out of Florida State, has played in two NBA games.

Northwest Notes: Russell, Jerome, Hartenstein, Pokuševski

With Timberwolves star center Karl-Anthony Towns still out of commission due to a dislocated wrist, starting guard D’Angelo Russell has struggled as the new focus of the club’s offense, writes The Athletic’s Jon Krawcyznski. The Wolves have lost three straight games in which they have been down by at least 30 points.

Russell has recently been moved by Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders to the shooting guard position to play in tandem with distributor Ricky Rubio at the point. “It can’t be different every night. It’s going to be something we’re running with and we’re sticking with and we build from it,” Russell said.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Northwest Division:

  • Second-year Thunder guard Ty Jerome continues to recover from an ankle injury he incurred in training camp this season, Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman tweets“I think [it happened] in the first practice,” head coach Mark Daigneault. said. “He’s back in OKC on a return-to-play, getting his work in.”
  • Mike Singer of the Denver Post details how the Nuggets signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a two-year, veteran’s minimum deal in free agency this offseason. Hartenstein discusses his frustration with a lack of consistent chances on his prior squad in Houston. “With the Rockets, every time they gave me an opportunity I performed,” Hartenstein said.
  • Rookie Thunder power forward Aleksej Pokuševski has been placed in the league’s concussion protocol after suffering a concussion in a team practice today, according to a team press release. He has appeared in all five of the Thunder’s outings so far, and is averaging 16.0 MPG.

Northwest Notes: Saunders, Nuggets, Pokusevski, Wolves

Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders sought advice from workers in other professional sports leagues about how to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Chris Hine of the Star Tribune.

Saunders spoke with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and Browns coach Kevin Stefanski — both of whom are in leagues that have already started to navigate through COVID-19 — to ask for advice on how to conduct meetings and adapt while following league protocols.

“We did a number of Zooms during the hiatus, during the pandemic, just to hear about best practices and how they were going to attack the protocols and what they were doing to do things the right way…” Saunders said. “Kevin, he was a big help as well talking about how they actually have done installs [of systems] over video conference.”

Saunders, 34, is the youngest head coach in the league. He was promoted by the team in May and is known for doing his homework and due-diligence, something other teams could learn from as they navigate the uncharted waters of playing through a pandemic.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

  • Kendra Andrews of The Athletic examines several notes related to the Nuggets, including the team’s rotation without Will Barton. Barton missed the team’s first preseason game on Saturday due to ‘back/knee injury recovery,’ according to Andrews, after also missing portions of the team’s live scrimmages last week. Denver is coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals, accruing an impressive 46-27 record during the regular season.
  • Thunder rookie Aleksej Pokusevski is drawing from his previous experience in Greece to help him transition to the NBA, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. Pokusevski, a seven-footer, was drafted No. 17 overall last month at just 18 years old. “It’s a bigger level, but it’s pretty [much] the same,” Pokusevski said of his situation. “Here I’m alone by myself right now, but I have experience about that. Listen to everyone. Listen, listen, listen and just learn, and everything’s going to be OK.”
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic examines the Timberwolves‘ season outlook, exploring the team’s rotation, projection and more. Minnesota sports a young nucleus of D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Karl-Anthony Towns, among others, and will seek a playoff berth in the Western Conference this coming season.

Northwest Notes: McLaughlin, Jackson, Pokusevski, Bogdanovic

Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders said today that the team hopes to add another point guard to its depth chart behind D’Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio, tweets Jon Krawczysnki of The Athletic.

While Saunders didn’t explicitly name him as the player the Wolves want to bring aboard, restricted free agent Jordan McLaughlin is the most obvious candidate for that role, Krawczynski notes. McLaughlin, who was on a two-way contract with Minnesota last season, is the only RFA who has yet to secure a new deal for 2020/21.

The qualifying offer McLaughlin received from the Wolves last month is for another two-way deal, but he and the team are likely trying to negotiate a standard contract that would give him a spot on Minnesota’s 15-man roster for the regular season.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Frank Jackson‘s two-year, minimum-salary contract with the Thunder has a partial guarantee worth $250K for 2020/21, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. The second year of Jackson’s new deal is non-guaranteed.
  • Several reports leading up to the 2020 draft linked Aleksej Pokusevski to the Thunder, but the Serbian forward was still surprised to be drafted by Oklahoma City at No. 17, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “Before the draft we didn’t have any contacts,” Pokusevski said. “I didn’t talk to anyone. I was shocked that I was chosen at No. 17 and drafted to OKC. I was shocked. I didn’t know that it was going to happen, and I was very happy about it.”
  • Jazz forward Joe Ingles is looking forward to playing with center Derrick Favors again, writes Aaron Falk of UtahJazz.com. “He’s obviously a guy I feel super comfortable playing with,” Ingles said of Favors, noting that the two veterans played a lot of minutes together during the big man’s previous stint in Utah.
  • Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (wrist) practiced in full this week and looks to be on track to play in the team’s regular season opener, says Tony Jones of The Athletic.

Thunder Sign Aleksej Pokusevski To Rookie Contract

The Thunder have locked up their first-round pick, officially signing Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski to his rookie contract, according to RealGM’s transactions log.

Pokusevski, one of the top international prospects in the 2020 draft class, was frequently connected to Oklahoma City in the weeks leading up to November 18, in part because his agent Jason Ranne used to work in the Thunder’s front office. Sure enough, on draft night, the Thunder moved up from No. 25 to No. 17 in a trade with the Timberwolves to snag Pokusevski.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Draft Pick Signings]

The 6’11” forward, who doesn’t turn 19 until later this month, had reportedly been under contract with Olympiacos Piraeus through 2024. He’ll have to pay a buyout to his old team in Greece, though the Thunder will be able to pick up a significant chunk of that buyout.

Assuming he signs for 120% of the rookie scale amount, as nearly every first-round pick does, Pokusevski will earn $2.96MM as a rookie. His four-year contract, which includes third- and fourth-year team options, will have an overall value of $14.35MM.

The Thunder still have two unsigned 2020 draft picks, though it’s not clear if either Theo Maledon (No. 34) or Vit Krejci (No. 37) will come stateside right away.

Timberwolves Trade For Ricky Rubio

NOVEMBER 20: The trade is now official, according to the Timberwolves, who announced it in a press release. As expected, Johnson was sent to the Thunder along with the rights to Pokusevski in exchange for Rubio, the No. 25 pick, and the No. 28 pick. Oklahoma City also received the Timberwolves’ 2024 second-round pick in the deal.

Minnesota subsequently flipped the No. 25 pick (Immanuel Quickley) to New York in a deal for Leandro Bolmaro (No. 23). The Wolves have also confirmed that trade.


NOVEMBER 19: Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link) confirms that Johnson will be a part of this deal for salary-matching purposes. The veteran forward will still need to pick up his option before he can officially be traded.


NOVEMBER 18: The Timberwolves will acquire point guard Ricky Rubio from the Thunder, along with the 25th and 28th picks in this year’s draft, in exchange for the 17th selection, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Oklahoma City will receive Serbian 7-footer Aleksej Pokusevski, whom Minnesota selected at No. 17. The Thunder had expressed interest in Pokusevski throughout the past two weeks.

Although it hasn’t been reported yet, James Johnson will likely have to be included in the deal to match salaries. Rubio will earn $17MM during the upcoming season, while Johnson has a $16MM player option that he is virtually certain to pick up.

The deal represents a homecoming for Rubio, who spent six seasons with the Wolves at the start of his career. He began looking for a trade after being sent to OKC in the Chris Paul deal and was receptive to the idea of returning to Minnesota. Rubio wants to help the Wolves get back to the playoffs, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Rubio will share ball-handling duties in the Minnesota backcourt with D’Angelo Russell, who was acquired at the trade deadline, and will reunite with former teammate Karl-Anthony Towns.

In addition to the 25th and 28th picks, the Wolves also own the 33rd pick in tonight’s second round. The Thunder, who have been stockpiling picks, will select again at 34 and 53.

O’Connor’s Latest: Hornets, Knicks, Toppin, Spurs, Harris, More

League sources have long said that the Hornets‘ preference on draft night would be adding a big man, either by trading up for James Wiseman or by picking Onyeka Okongwu, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. However, according to O’Connor, there are some people in Charlotte’s front office who like the idea of drafting LaMelo Ball if he’s available.

As O’Connor notes, one potential avenue for the Hornets if Wiseman is off the board at No. 3 and Ball is available would be to trade down with a team like Chicago or Detroit that might be eyeing Ball. In that scenario, Charlotte could theoretically pick up an extra asset or two while still having the opportunity to select Okongwu.

Here are a few more of the most interesting tidbits from O’Connor’s latest mock draft at The Ringer:

  • O’Connor’s sources believe the Knicks will select Obi Toppin if he’s available at No. 8. If the Dayton forward makes it past Cleveland at No. 5, there’s a chance he’ll still be on the board for New York.
  • The Spurs “love” Villanova forward Saddiq Bey, according to O’Connor, who says San Antonio is also one of multiple teams with interest in trading up for Florida State’s Patrick Williams.
  • “Everyone around the league” thinks that the Thunder will look to trade up to land seven-footer Aleksej Pokusevski, who has been frequently linked to Oklahoma City in large part due to his agent’s connection to general manager Sam Presti. Agent Jason Ranne used to work in the Thunder’s front office.
  • Within his note on the Nets‘ potential pick at No. 19, O’Connor cites sources who say that Brooklyn is likely to re-sign free agent sharpshooter Joe Harris.
  • The Nuggets are thought to be targeting a frontcourt player at No. 22, league sources tell O’Connor, who identifies Isaiah Stewart and Zeke Nnaji as a couple possibilities.

Draft Rumors: Wolves, Edwards, Ball, P. Williams, Hawks, Knicks, More

With the 2020 NBA draft just two days away, several draft experts are publishing their final mocks of the year, nearly five months after the event was initially scheduled to take place. Jonathan Givony of ESPN, Jeremy Woo of SI.com, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report are among those who published new mock drafts today. Let’s round up a few of the key pieces of intel from those mocks…

  • Sources tell Vecenie that the Timberwolves still haven’t finalized a decision on what they’ll do with their No. 1 pick, as they expect “real” trade offers to start coming in during the next couple days. However, Givony and Woo have both heard that most teams around the NBA are operating as if the Wolves will select Anthony Edwards if they stay put.
  • LaMelo Ball‘s private workouts with teams last week were strong, according to Givony, who suggests that the Warriors were among the teams impressed by what they saw from Ball. Still, Givony and other draft experts view James Wiseman as Golden State’s most likely pick at No. 2.
  • There has been plenty of chatter about Florida State forward Patrick Williams, whose ceiling is as high as No. 4 to the Bulls, according to both Woo and Givony.
  • Opposing front offices say the Hawks (No. 6) have been the most active team in trade talks, according to Givony, who says Atlanta could push for an impact player (such as Jrue Holiday or Victor Oladipo) or trade down and pick up another young player.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Knicks (No. 8) appear to be “looking hardest” at Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro, and Kira Lewis Jr. Sources have also linked Obi Toppin to New York for some time, per Woo, though the Dayton forward is less likely to be on the board at No. 8.
  • Assuming the Suns keep the No. 10 pick, sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith is thought to be high on their list, says Wasserman.
  • While the Celtics have looked into packaging their three first-rounders (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) for a mid-lottery pick, interest in that sort of deal appears to be lukewarm, according to Woo, who says Boston may be more likely to make smaller trades with their picks.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Trail Blazers (No. 16) have expressed interest in Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski, while Vecenie says Jay Scrubb‘s name is the one he has heard linked most frequently to Portland.
  • The Bucks‘ pick at No. 24 is one to watch in trade talks as Milwaukee tries to upgrade its roster, writes Vecenie. If they keep the pick, Josh Green is among the options the Bucks are eyeing, per Wasserman.

O’Connor’s Latest: Bucks, Mavs, LaVine, Gordon, More

The Bucks are active in trade discussions and have offered point guard Eric Bledsoe to multiple teams, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. As the Bucks look to upgrade their roster around reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and standout forward Khris Middleton, it sounds like they’re focusing on two-way forwards with defensive versatility — according to O’Connor, the club is pursuing Rockets veterans Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker.

O’Connor’s latest mock draft at The Ringer includes plenty of interesting tidbits, including a couple we’ve already passed along. Here are a few more highlights:

  • Multiple teams, including the Mavericks, have contacted the Bulls this offseason to inquire on Zach LaVine‘s availability, says O’Connor. It’s not clear if Chicago would have any interest in moving its leading scorer.
  • League sources tell The Ringer that the Magic have made efforts to move up into the lottery by attaching Aaron Gordon to their No. 15 selection.
  • O’Connor writes that the Suns are “hoping” to use their No. 10 pick in a trade for Chris Paul. That would seemingly contradict an earlier report that suggested Phoenix probably wouldn’t that pick in an offer for the Thunder point guard.
  • Executives around the NBA are fairly confident that Deni Avdija won’t fall past Cleveland at No. 5, according to O’Connor, who is the latest to report that the Cavaliers are high on the Israeli wing.
  • There has been increasing buzz surrounding Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski, with execs around the league increasingly believing that he’ll be a lottery pick, per O’Connor.
  • Oregon guard Payton Pritchard is receiving interest from multiple teams near the end of the first round, sources tell O’Connor. One of those sources thinks Pritchard may even have a promise.

Draft Rumors: Edwards, Haliburton, Pistons, Cavs, Suns, More

While John Hollinger of The Athletic believes Anthony Edwards will still come off the board very early in next Wednesday’s draft, he notes within his new mock draft that many teams don’t seem especially enthusiastic about the former Georgia guard. Those teams believe in Edwards’ talent, but a “blah” Pro Day workout and some “iffy” background reports have made them nervous, according to Hollinger.

Hollinger has also heard that LaMelo Ball and Nico Mannion are among the players who haven’t necessarily had great interviews with teams, though it remains to be seen how much it’ll affect where they’re drafted.

On the other end of the spectrum, everybody seems to be high on Tyrese Haliburton, according to Hollinger, who says the former Iowa State guard is benefiting from 1-on-0 workouts and the background on him is “impeccable.” Desmond Bane and Isaiah Stewart are among the other prospects who have received some positive buzz for the impressions they’ve made in interviews with teams, writes Hollinger.

Hollinger’s mock draft for The Athletic is full of interesting tidbits and is worth checking out in full if you’re a subscriber. Here are a few more highlights:

  • Hollinger confirms that the Pistons are very interested in Florida State’s Patrick Williams – as has been previously reported – and suggests there are whispers that Detroit has made Williams a promise.
  • Obi Toppin and Deni Avdija are the only two names Hollinger has heard regularly connected to the Cavaliers at No. 5.
  • Onyeka Okongwu looks like a lock to go to Washington at No. 9 if he makes it that far, according to Hollinger, who says the question isn’t whether the Wizards will take Okongwu — it’s who they’ll take if he’s not available.
  • “The word is pretty strong” that the Suns are eyeing a backcourt piece with the No. 10 pick, prompting Hollinger to point out that the team may be looking to address the power forward spot in free agency.
  • There are rumors that Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski received a promise from a team in the first round. As Hollinger observes, Pokusevski’s agent Jason Ranne used to work for the Thunder, who have been willing to make draft promises in the past. However, even if Oklahoma City did make Pokusevski a promise, Hollinger is skeptical that he’ll still be on the board at No. 25.