Observing Aleksej Pokusevski

November 20th, 2019

by Alan Lu

Recently, Olympiacos’ 6-11 Serbian center Aleksej Pokusevski has been receiving some draft buzz lately, as he is a tall big man that has stuffed the stat sheet in the FIBA tournaments against players his age during international competition, he’s getting considerable playing time in the 2nd Greek League, and people are fascinated by his versatility and upside as a prospect for the NBA. I decided to set out to watch him play against Charilaos Trikoupis Mesologiou in an October 12th game, as it was online with thanks to YouTube via Tilesport. tv. Though he did not shoot the ball very well in this game, he showed off some interesting skills as to why he’s being considered to be a potential first round pick recently. Here are my thoughts on his skills, as well as how his game may translate to the NBA.

Some feel that Olympiacos' 6-11 forward, Aleksej Pokusevski may be a first round talent in the 2020 NBA Draft. (Photo: Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)
Aleksej Pokusevski has been getting significant draft buzz lately, and he could potentially be a first round pick in 2020. (Photo: Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Aleksej Pokusevski is a tall, skilled big man that has some intriguing perimeter skills, and he is an active shot blocker that has the range to make plenty of plays defensively.

He is a deft ball handler that dribbles surprisingly well for a player his size, as he will often push the ball up the court off of defensive rebounds, and he excels at scoring on fast breaks. He was able to drive up the court off of a board to score on a smooth, graceful layup once. Another time, he ran the floor and caught a long interior pass to score on an emphatic, two-handed dunk.

Also, he possesses a decent ability to score off the dribble. When handling the ball out on the perimeter once, Pokusevski drove left past a slower footed big man to score on a smooth, reverse layup in traffic, as he was able to take on the contact to finish the play. However, sometimes he doesn’t always go up strong, as he rushed a quick put back that led to a miss, and he also had his shot blocked after receiving a pass on a backdoor cut.

Pokusevski showed some promising stretch big potential, but he still has ways to go as his jump shot is still a work in progress. During the second quarter, he dribbled left and pulled up to calmly knock down a three off the dribble, as he made the long-range shot effortlessly that time. However, he tended to miss quick threes as he struggled to make long-range jumpers from beyond the arc. Sometimes he would rush his shots, other times, he would show good form on his shot, but may not always follow through, which would lead to misses.

He also showed off solid playmaking skills. Pokusevski passes and handles the ball well, as he is a good ball handler, especially for a player his size, and he is like a tall point forward, which is impressive since he is nearly 7 feet tall. In this game, he would tend to find open shooters after handling the ball in transition, and he can patiently kick balls out to his teammates to set up scoring opportunities for them. He excels at passing off the dribble, as he can throw long, accurate passes, and he makes solid reads that can put his teammates in prime spot to score on offense. Sometimes though, he can be careless with the basketball, as he had a ball poked away, and he also stepped out of bounds after getting an offensive board that led him to commit turnovers.

He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. Pokusevski collected many boards on both ends of the floor throughout this game, as he would often leap up to haul them in, and he would frequently push the ball up the floor after getting defensive rebounds. He also was able to run in to save a ball to a teammate to help his team get an offensive board due to possessing good instincts, athleticism, and motor that time. But he did have a couple of instances where he tried to corral in a basketball to get a rebound, but the ball ended up going off of his hands to land out of bounds.

Pokusevski also played adequate defense in his team’s loss to Charilaos Trikoupis Mesologiou. He is a very good shot blocker, as he has solid length, recovery speed, and timing to make chase down blocks to help his team protect the paint, and he is a rangy defender that can cover a lot of ground. He also can defend out on the perimeter when he’s dialed in, as he managed to stay in front of an opposing ball handler out there and successfully challenged a floater to force a miss. He will also fight through screens, and he also has good feet to trap and pressure opposing ball handlers.

Sometimes though, he can be unfocused on the defensive end. There was one play where he didn’t make a great effort to step up to rotate on a drive despite being in the area, as he instead made a lazy swipe at the ball and missed, as his team allowed the score on a drive. He also was caught staring off into space for a brief second, which was just enough time for him to get beat off of a cut to give up the basket.

He also struggled a bit when guarding shooters out on the perimeter. He had a tendency to sag too far and give up too much space to his man, which would cause him to allow opponents to score on long jumpers. He’ll also need to add strength, as he was backed down in the post another time to allow a basket shortly after missing out on trying to go for a loose ball. Early on, he over-rotated when defending his man in the corner, which led him to get beat off the dribble to allow the basket.

In general, Aleksej Pokusevski is a talented project player who could end up being a potential first round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. On one hand, he’ll need to improve his jump shot, make more shots efficiently, and be a more disciplined defender on a consistent basis, and the fact that he has not played in the top Greek league yet may raise concerns about how well he’ll hold up against elite competition.

On the other hand, he’s a muti-skilled, versatile basketball player that can do many things on the floor, and he is getting a lot of playing time in a veteran heavy, professional league. Pokusevski has an intriguing set of perimeter skills that could allow him to excel if he can continue to hone his game, and he is a solid playmaker that seems to possess a knack for putting his teammates in prime spots to score the basketball. He’s also a long, rangy shot blocker that has the footwork to be a shutdown interior defender. Right now, he’ll need to continue to develop as an overall player, but he is an intriguing prospect that could go in the first round in 2020, as he could end up being a solid role player akin to Golden State Warriors’ center, Kevon Looney in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Olympiacos’ 6-9, 1998-born forward, Vasilis Christidis from Greece played very well in his team’s loss to Charilaos Tripkoupis Mesologious, otherwise known as C.T.M. He is a tough, mobile big man that showed off solid inside scoring, rebounding, and defensive skills, and though he has struggled to make shots consistently in the 2nd Greek League this year, he certainly dominated the competition in this game, as that could perhaps get him second round looks by an NBA teams for the upcoming draft.

Christidis did a great job of scoring on rolls to the rim. He was able to come down with a ball after bobbling it initially once, and he pivoted to score on a turnaround jump hook in traffic. On a separate play, he managed to receive the ball on a roll midway through, to score on a floater. He also managed to score on a roll to the rim late in the game by making the shot off the glass.

He also showed off decent low post scoring skills. He has good strength to back down his man to get far into the paint, and he also possesses good shooting touch to make shots around the basket. On one play, he backed his man down, and pivoted to score on a strong drop step move off the glass. He also drew free throws when going up strong in traffic another time. He also missed on a dunk attempt in traffic later on after getting the ball close to the hoop. Late in the match, he posted up from too far away, as he missed on a turnaround jump hook from the baseline.

He also showed a knack for scoring off of strong put backs after getting offensive rebounds. Plus, he also ran the floor to get the ball down court, as he used a pump fake to draw free throws later on.

Plus, he also displayed adequate playmaking skills in this game. Christidis is an unselfish player that can pass out of the post, and he also set good screens to help get his teammates open looks to shoot the basketball. Plus, he also did a good job of running down a slightly off-target outlet pass on the break, which allowed him to get the ball, as then passed it off to a teammate.

Also, Christidis did a very good job of grabbing rebounds when he was on the court. He would often leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor, as he can get tough rebounds in traffic, and he also has a good motor that allows him to chase down balls due to possessing a keen nose for the basketball.

He also played solid defense. Christidis is an active help defender that has good defensive awareness, anticipation skills, and timing, as that allowed him to make plays on the ball against C.T.M. Christidis rotated to block a shot in the post from the blindside to a teammate midway through this contest, and he also leapt up to catch an interior pass to nab a steal late in the game due to his anticipation skills and ability to read the play. Plus, he also showed the ability to contest three-point shots as well as shots in the post to force misses. On the other hand, there was one possession where he was caught ball watching, as he forgot to follow his man to the corner, and he was late to rotate, which led his team to allow an opponent to score on a corner three.

Overall, Vasilis Christidis had a very good showing in his team’s loss to C.T.M. He showed a solid ability to score on the move as well as score in the post, and he also excelled as a rebounder and defender in this game. He’ll need to continue to play well this season to be able to gain some serious traction as a prospect for the 2020 draft. Right now, he may be flying under the radar as a draft prospect, but if he can make his way to the NBA, he could end up being an effective rotation player for a team in the association.

Olympiacos’ 6-5, 2000-born guard, Nikos Arsenopoulos didn’t quite play as much as the other two, but he was able to show some off some playmaking and defensive skills, as well as the ability to score off the dribble. While he lacks elite physical tools, he has good size to play either backcourt position, and there were times where he played like a seasoned veteran when matched up against the other players in this league.

Arsenopoulos possesses a fairly good ability to score on fast breaks. He was able to drive left to draw free throws after carefully handling the ball amidst pressure once. Late in the game, he ran the floor to score on a layup as a trailer in transition. However, he tended to miss his jumpers, and he also missed on a contested layup after driving hard right to the hoop another time.

He also is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can find teammates on the move to set up scores for them. Arsenopoulos is also a crafty ball handler that can operate under the pressure as he can push the ball up the floor in transition, and he did a good job of not turning the ball over on offense.

Plus, he was able to run in to get a couple of offensive rebounds due to possessing a good motor on the floor. He also played decent defense in this game. Arsenopoulos was able to poke a ball away from an opposing ball handler to get a steal, and he also jumped on a loose ball that was dropped right to him to collect another. He also managed to close out hard to force an opponent to miss a three-point shot. His lone miscue came when he tried to go for a steal on one play and missed, as he ended up getting beat off the dribble to his left to allow a score on that occasion.

Overall, Arsenopoulos is a tall playmaker that can play either backcourt position, though he has not seen as many minutes as he did last season. While he does not possess elite physical tools, he seems to tend to make sound decisions when he is on the floor. He will need to make more shots consistently, but if he can show that he can play at higher levels, he could perhaps end up being a second round pick sometime in the future.

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