Knicks Draft: A scout and non-believer talk Aleksej Pokusevski

New York Knicks draft (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
New York Knicks draft (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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NBA Draft (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Knicks Draft: Aleksej Pokusevski’s level of competition

In our LaMelo discussion, we discussed my concern about the NBL’s level of competition. Those concerns are exponentially greater with Poku. He plays on his club’s JV team and doesn’t even dominate statistically. Why are you so confident the tape will translate to the NBA, that it isn’t just the product of playing against non-professional competition?

SPENCER: If you actually look at the per 40 stats, his numbers line up well with Giannis’ (if not better) from his time in the same league. Big Wafe, who is a good draft follow, put up the stats on his most recent draft update. Obviously I’m not saying they’re the same, but the stats are not bad at all.

That said, he could’ve played better. Part of it was role – he was used without any *true* set role, but often it was spot-up shooting and movement shooting. The movement shots dragged his numbers down a bit, but the footwork and movement makes bode really well for his projection going forward. They’d use him as a PnR/PnP guy, and as the ball-handler on occasion as well, but he was mainly just a shooter. The varied skills he showed at his height are what makes him so intriguing – he’s not just a big guy using height/strength to beat guys smaller; he’s beating guys with his movement and skill. I don’t care what league it is – not many guys can shoot off movement, run PnRs as the screener or ball-handler, and act as a legit big-man initiator in the same game.

I’m not 100% confident it will translate, at least to his fullest potential, but I think he’s too skilled not to have an impact. He’s also a smart player, too – IQ and skill level tend to translate.

What position will he play in the NBA, and what must he do to play it effectively?

SPENCER: I think he’ll play the 4 in most lineups, though I could also see him playing 5 in true small-ball configurations. If he’s able to get up to 230-235 or so, which I think will happen naturally, he could see some minutes starting at the 5. But I don’t think he’s someone who can defend Embiid, Nurkic, Jokic, etc. because they’d just overpower him.

Skill-wise, he needs the shooting (which will come) – that’s probably the biggest one on offense. Again, his movement skills at his size are freaky – he’s 7’ moving like someone 6’7…that’s not normal. His ability to space the court will open up everything else, whether it’s passing on the move after being chased off the line or running PnP as the big. The additional stuff he doesn’t “need,” but I think he’ll have in his bag – being a big-man initiator, running PnR as the ball-handler, etc. I really can’t talk enough about the flashes he’s consistently shown on offense – if he hits 100% of his outcome, he’s a potential generational player a la Jokic (but some weird Bertāns-Jokić mix that we haven’t seen before); if he ends up around 75%, a better defensive Bertāns with more passing is a super-versatile impact starter. His potential low-end outcome is a +spacer with +passing. Obviously this is dependent on his work ethic, which I can’t speak on, but I think the bust level with him is pretty low.