Aleksej Pokusevski

Southeast Notes: Pokusevski, Curry, Martin, Forrest, Wizards

The Hornets signed young forward Aleksej Pokusevski to a two-year contract which is non-guaranteed for the 2024/25 season, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto (Twitter link). Charlotte will get a chance to monitor the 7’0″ forward and see if he can live up to his former 17th overall draft selection status.

Pokusevski became the fourth former Thunder player to join the Hornets after the deadline, joining Vasilije Micic, Tre Mann, and Davis Bertans. According to Sam Perley of (Twitter link), those connections are helping him feel comfortable in his new home.

It feels good,” Pokusevski said. “The guys are great. [Having former OKC teammates here] makes it easier. Vasa, Tre, Bertāns. It feels better that I can talk to the guys that I know and they can explain how things are going here.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets guards Seth Curry (right ankle) and Cody Martin (left ankle) exited the second half of Charlotte’s Friday matchup against the Sixers due to injuries, according to team PR (Twitter link). They will both be evaluated on Saturday.
  • Hawks guard Trent Forrest is seeing his hard work pay off after getting his two-way contract converted into a standard deal, writes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Lauren Williams (subscriber link). According to Williams (Twitter links), coach Quin Snyder lauded Forrest’s progression and work ethic. “He’s just he’s been a guy that’s, it’s hard to, have durability and in this league and Trent’s, a guy that’s continuing to work to put himself in a position where he is where he is right now,” Snyder said. “And I say that with full confidence that he’s going to continue to work. And that’s one of the things that we really appreciate about him. Happy for him. I think he he’s earned everything everybody’s given him in this profession.
  • As the Wizards continue to deal with injuries, their bench players are starting to see more opportunities, according to The Washington Post’s Ava Wallace (subscriber link). Eugene Omoruyi, Jules Bernard, Jared Butler, Johnny Davis, Patrick Baldwin Jr., and Justin Champagnie have all received first-quarter minutes as of late. Omoruyi was promoted to a standard deal from his two-way contract on Friday. “Right now, it’s a lot of discovery,Kyle Kuzma said. “Trying to figure out what a lot of guys do, what they can do, what they can’t do, what they bring to winning basketball.

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.

Thunder Notes: Holmgren, Pokusevski, SGA, Sefolosha

The presence of 7’1″ rookie Chet Holmgren has added a lob threat to the Thunder‘s offense, writes Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman. By December, the team had already thrown more lobs than it did all of last season, when Holmgren was sidelined with a foot injury. The ability to target Holmgren around the rim gives opposing defenses one more weapon to worry about.

“It’s something we’ve definitely tried to highlight, especially against switches,” coach Mark Daigneault said. “If they’re gonna put a smaller guy on him and switch him, we have to throw the ball up to him.” 

Holmgren had to learn how to establish position in the post before the lob game became effective, Lorenzi adds. He’s grown more comfortable as the season has worn on, and his teammates have figured out the best ways to get the ball to him.

“Just trusting the process of things,” Holmgren said. “Knowing that not everything is gonna be perfect from Day 1. … We have a lot to work on outside of being better at throwing lobs, catching lobs, playing out of actions that lead to lobs. We just got to continue to work at everything.”

There’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Even though the Thunder decided to waive Aleksej Pokusevski this week, Daigneault is proud of how the forward developed his skills during his time with the organization, Lorenzi tweets. “(When he was drafted) I didn’t think he really had a great understanding of his own game as a professional player,” Daigneault said. “… Three and a half years later, I think he’s improved in all those things. And that’s what we want to be about.” 
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPN looks back at the 2019 trade that sent Paul George to the Clippers in exchange for a package that included Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. McMahon states that general manager Sam Presti‘s insistence that SGA be included may have set up the next NBA dynasty. “I didn’t see it coming,” Gilgeous-Alexander recalled. “I’m not like, ‘Why would you do that?’ It made sense. I think Paul just came off like an MVP-caliber year. … I used it a little bit as motivation just to get better and really turn myself into that caliber of player.”
  • Thabo Sefolosha, who was part of the greatest seasons in Thunder history, sees similarities between his teams and the current roster, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “I see a lot of what we had, people not expecting them to be this good,” said Sefolosha, who was a guest at Friday’s game as part of Thunder Legacy Weekend. “Super-competitive team. Extremely talented. Credit to Sam. He finds a way. You cannot doubt the man.” 

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.

Northwest Notes: Towns, Finch, Ayton, Pokusevski, Sexton

Karl-Anthony Towns scored a franchise record 62 points on Monday but coach Chris Finch tore into Towns and his teammates for blowing a double-digit, second-half lead to the lottery bound Hornets, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“It was an absolutely disgusting performance of defense and immature basketball,” the Timberwolves coach said.

Finch believed Towns and the other regulars weren’t focused enough on playing winning basketball.

“We totally disrespected the game, ourselves, and we got exactly what we deserved,” said Finch, adding, “We’ve got a lot of basketball left to play, and that’s what our guys need to understand. We haven’t done a thing yet. We haven’t accomplished a thing yet. We’ve got to play with a better desire and a better purpose and a better readiness every single night.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Deandre Ayton is averaging a career-low 12.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his first season with the Trail Blazers but it hasn’t impacted his high opinion of his game. Ayton told Mark Medina of (subscription required) that he’s a max player. “I got nothing to prove in this league,” Ayton said. “I’m a max player, and I’ll continue to be a max player.” Ayton is in the second year of a four-year, $132.9MM contract, which Indiana offered him in restricted free agency and Phoenix matched in 2022.
  • Aleksej Pokusevski has only appeared in seven games for the Thunder this season. Coach Mark Daigneault said there’s nothing wrong with the big man physically — he just doesn’t have a spot in the rotation, Clemente Almanza of The Thunder Wire tweets. “He’s healthy,” Daigneault said. “You can only dress 15 guys and we’ve had kinda an uncommon run of health here. We’ve really had a healthy team for much of the season, which is hard to do. Some of that is luck and some of that is the work these guys have put in. Some combination of the two. You have to make three guys inactive and we usually just put out the 15 in uniform that we think are most relevant for that game that night.”
  • Collin Sexton has been a major part of the Jazz’s surge up the standings. The guard said his trust in his surgically repaired knee is a big reason why, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. “Confidence is everything,” he says. “Not worrying about pushing off or not trying to change your game just because you are nervous or scared. I feel like that’s something that people have to get over that hump. Now, I’m back at full swing.” Sexton received a four-year, $72MM contract in a sign-and-trade between Cleveland and Utah in 2o22.

And-Ones: Petrusev, 2024 Draft, Trade Candidates, More

After being cut by the Kings on Friday, big man Filip Petrusev should officially clear waivers later today. Nebojsa Covic, the president of Crvena Zvezda, Petrusev’s former team in Serbia, indicated on Saturday that he would be open to bringing back the 23-year-old.

“I heard about it and that Olympiacos made a very decent offer,” Covic said, per Mozzart (hat tip to Eurohoops). “The door of Red Star is open for Petrusev now, but it’s his and his agent’s decision. We’ll let them decide. There won’t be any hard feelings, regardless of this decision.”

Any interest the Serbian club may have in Petrusev appears to be moot. As Covic alluded to, reporting on Friday suggested the NBA rookie is set to join Greek team Olympiacos once he clears waivers, and that deal remains on track to be completed.

Aris Barkas of Eurohoops reports that Petrusev is expected to sign a three-year contract with Olympiacos that includes a third-year team option. The agreement will also include NBA outs in the event that Petrusev is offered another opportunity stateside, according to Barkas.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report has updated his mock draft for 2024, making major changes to rounds one and two. Two of the biggest risers are Pittsburgh’s Carlton Carrington and Virginia’s Ryan Dunn, who weren’t on Wasserman’s previous board but are now projected as lottery picks at No. 10 and No. 14, respectively.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype takes a look at a few players who are currently injured or out of their team’s rotation, identifying them as possible in-season trade candidates. A pair of PistonsMonte Morris and James Wiseman – and Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski are among the players singled out by Gozlan.
  • Which players are the NBA’s biggest overachievers and underachievers through the first month of the regular season? Mark Medina names three for each category in a story for Bovada Sportsbook, with 10-time All-Star James Harden and five-time All-Star Klay Thompson showing up in his list of underachievers.

Northwest Notes: KCP, Porter Jr., Jazz, Thunder

Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has set a goal of making the All-Defensive Team, The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando writes.

“I feel like I’ve been snubbed a couple years from that. Or even just being mentioned,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve even been mentioned in that category, and now it’s a goal this year. I’ll make some noise, so they can’t ignore me.”

Coach Michael Malone typically assigns KCP to guard the opponent’s top guard. He already held Desmond Bane and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to poor shooting performances this season.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Speaking of the Nuggets and defense, Malone awarded Michael Porter Jr. with the team’s defensive player of the game “chain” for the way he blanketed Luka Doncic on Friday, Harrison Wind of relays. “Part of it is experience,” he said. “Playing against certain players, just being out there on the floor more over the years, you naturally get better. Part of it has to do with how I feel physically. My ankle doesn’t feel 100%, but I’ve kind of figured out how I should be playing guys on defense in ISO situations. And that’s not crowding them. It’s using my length. I think it’s just something you get better with over time.”
  • The Jazz have the league’s worst half-court defense in the early going and the Salt Lake Tribune’s Andy Larsen opines that the players simply aren’t taking enough pride at that end of the floor. The Jazz allowed 123 points in just 95 Minnesota possessions on Saturday. “We’ve got way too many moments where we’re not doing a good job on the ball. We’re not doing a very good job with secondary defenders. The activity has been pretty lackluster in general,” coach Will Hardy said.
  • The Thunder assigned Ousmane Dieng, Aleksej Pokusevski and Tre Mann to the G League’s Oklahoma City Blue. According to Thunder beat writer Brett Dawson (Twitter link), the Blue held a scrimmage on Sunday and it allowed that trio to get in some five-on-five work.

Western Notes: THT, K. George, Kings, Booker, Pokusevski

After letting several players battle for the role in training camp and preseason, the Jazz made Talen Horton-Tucker their starting point guard on Wednesday. According to Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune, head coach Will Hardy explained that a domino effect related to two other starters was a major factor in the decision.

“Talen pairs well with Jordan (Clarkson). Jordan is very much a good pairing with Lauri (Markkanen), because he provides a second threat offensively, a second ball-handler, a second play-maker, a second focal point of the offense,” Hardy said. “When we made the determination that Jordan was going to play with Lauri, Talen was the best fit to play with Jordan.”

As Larsen notes, of the players on Utah’s current roster, No. 16 overall pick Keyonte George is the best bet to be the point guard of the future. George had a solid debut, scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes (Horton-Tucker had eight points on 3-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes), but Hardy isn’t ready to throw the rookie in the deep end by starting him and playing him heavy minutes.

“I think that Keyonte is a good player. I think we have high expectations for Keyonte and his future,” the Jazz coach said. “But in no way are we going into these games just saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to play Keyonte to play Keyonte.’ I thought he was reading the game well, he made some really good decisions. He made some great passes to shots that didn’t go in. But, I thought that in the flow of the game, he had a good thing going.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Kings were the feel-good story of 2022/23, winning 48 games and snapping a 16-season playoff drought, but head coach Mike Brown isn’t satisfied with their achievements, telling the team entering this season that “good is the enemy of great,” as Anthony Slater and Sam Amick of The Athletic detail in an in-depth piece on the team’s desire to reach the next level. “I feel like he’s erased everything we did last year from his memory, from our memory,” Domantas Sabonis said of Brown. “He only brings up that we lost against the Warriors (in the first round of the playoffs). He’s definitely pushing us harder, and I love it. It’s fair. That happens usually (where) guys get complacent or think, ‘Oh, whatever we did last year.’ But if we don’t do all the little details, nothing’s going to change, you know?”
  • Suns guard Devin Booker missed Thursday’s game due to what has been diagnosed as a left mid-foot sprain, according to TNT’s Jared Greenberg (Twitter link), who says the injury occurred during Tuesday’s win over Golden State. Booker will undergo an MRI upon returning to Phoenix and is aiming to return to the court on Tuesday vs. San Antonio, a team source tells Greenberg.
  • When the Thunder announced on September 20 that Aleksej Pokusevski had sprained his right ankle in a workout, they said he would be reevaluated in six weeks. However, Pokusevski was active for the team’s regular season opener on Wednesday, beating a recovery timeline that would’ve sidelined him until November, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The fourth-year forward may not be part of Oklahoma City’s regular rotation at this point though — he only played two minutes of garbage time in Wednesday’s victory over Chicago.

Maxey, Quickley, Williams Among Players Who Didn’t Sign Extensions

An unusual number of players who were eligible to sign rookie scale extensions prior to Monday’s deadline inked new deals. A total of 14 players received rookie scale extensions in 2023, blowing away the previous single-year record of 11.

However, nearly half of the 27 eligible players didn’t sign a contract and thus will head to restricted free agency, if they are extended qualifying offers by their respective teams after the season. Otherwise, they’ll be unrestricted free agents next summer.

Perhaps the biggest name on the list is Sixers star guard Tyrese Maxey, though that comes with an asterisk. The Sixers front office and Maxey mutually agreed to put off an extension so that Philadelphia could maximize its cap room next summer.

Immanuel Quickley and Patrick Williams are two of the other big-time names on the list who didn’t reach agreements with their teams. While the Knicks and Quickley’s reps — as well as the Bulls and Williams’ reps — held extension talks as the deadline neared, they couldn’t come to terms on the numbers.

Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn (Raptors), Saddiq Bey (Hawks), James Wiseman and Killian Hayes (Pistons), Kira Lewis (Pelicans), Chuma Okeke (Magic), Isaac Okoro (Cavaliers), Aleksej Pokusevski (Thunder) and Obi Toppin (Pacers) are the other eligible players who didn’t sign extensions.

A full list of the players who did, or did not, sign rookie scale extensions this offseason can be found here.

Thunder’s Pokusevski Sprains Ankle, Will Be Reevaluated In Six Weeks

Thunder forward/center Aleksej Pokusevski is expected to miss training camp, the preseason, and the start of the regular season after spraining his right ankle during a workout on Tuesday.

According to an announcement from the team, Pokusevski will be reevaluated in approximately six weeks. That means he likely won’t suit up for Oklahoma City before November.

It’s a tough break for the 21-year-old, who is entering an important year. He’s eligible to sign a rookie scale extension up until the day before the regular season begins and would be on an expiring contract if he doesn’t get a new deal prior to opening night. In that scenario, the Thunder would have the ability to make him a restricted free agent in 2024.

The No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Pokusevski has flashed tantalizing upside in his first three NBA seasons and posted a career-best .365 3PT% last season. However, he has been snake-bitten by injuries as of late. 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.

With Chet Holmgren poised to enter the rotation this fall and Pokusevksi off to a late start due to his ankle injury, it’s unclear what the Serbian’s role might look like once he gets healthy.