Going into Saturday’s game vs. the Spurs no one knew how many minutes and production Poku would bring to the team. Head Coach Mark Daigneault was not even sure on what where stood saying, “He’ll be in camp, he’ll go through the drills and compete and learn, and we’ll figure out where his starting point is.”
Pokusevski, the Thunder’s 17th pick in this years draft, has been a mystery among many NBA fans. Poku was the youngest player in the draft, turning 19 in the last week of December. He brings a unique frame and skillset you don’t often see from a big man, standing 7 feet tall with a remarkable 7’3″ wingspan (for reference, that is the same as Giannis). In addition to his frame, he has shown flashes of excellence in all areas of the game, shooting, shot blocking, ball handling, and passing while playing overseas. In Saturday’s game, he gave a just a perfect glimpse at his skillset.
Pokusevski started the game off slow with some jitters, going 1-6 to begin the game, while making lousy turnovers, and leaving shots way off the mark. Even with these early struggles, there still was a promising highlight to be made.
Break Away Speed
Take a look at this coast-to-coast play by Pokusevski:
Now, obviously the finish was not there, but there’s alot of postivies from this play. Poku’s speed pops off the page, as he flew by his man Jakob Poetl when going in transition. It only took him 5 seconds to get the defensive rebound and take the ball downhill for a layup. Poku opted for to try to eurostep away from the basket to create space, but Spurs defender Trey Lyles played him perfectly making his shot almost impossible to make. Even though the eurostep layup didn’t fall, you love to a guy with his size so willing to pull that move out with relative ease.
Poku bounced back from his 1-6 start, finishing the game off going 4-6 from the field, with all of those shots coming from 3. In fact, he hit 3 of those 4 shots in a span of just over a minute.
These rapid fire barrage of threes should be a great sign for Thunder fans. It took Poku 5-tenths of a second on average to get those three shots off, that quick of a shot release is unheard of for a 7-footer. One thing that I can say for sure is he has great shot mechanics, squares his feet towards the basket, and gets an surprising amount of lift when going for the jumper. My only knock is he extends his elbows out a lot on his shots, and pushes the ball more so outwards on the shot, as opposed to upwards, sticking the ball out a bit more than you’d like and leaving to some line drive shots. His 7’3″ wingspan does reap some benefits though as even with his elbows out, his long arms allow him to get the ball out of the defenders reach. That on top of his jumper being so quick, his only issue really ends up not being such a big deal.
Poku didn’t really have as many opportunities to ball handle and distribute on Saturday, but he still managed to show off a little bit of his passing ability. Poku’s passing while up in the air is at an elite level for his age. Although he didn’t show off any passes mid-air, a quick search of his Euroleague Highlights will bring you right to them, and the degree of difficulty he does that at is jaw-dropping. What he did show from he passing game was a beautiful overhead pass to Isaiah Roby.
Roby couldn’t finish off the play as Trey Lyles did a great job moving inside, but the setup was perfect. Roby pretended to set a screen up top, fazing the defense, and put himself in a spot to run by through them to the lane. This was a common factor in Saturday’s game as Roby’s screen setting was excellent, and will go under the radar by most fans. Poku saw this lapse in the defense, and took no time dumping the ball down low.
Poku showed off a little bit of everything on Saturday displaying his insane downhill speed, his great shot mechanics and quick release, and his nice court vision. I think his strong performance in the closing minutes of this game will propel him to a bigger role against the Bulls on Wednesday.