1. Aleksej Pokusevski: Wing – Serbia
The way things are trending the Rockets could be without James Harden and Russell Westbrook when the season starts in December. Aleksej Pokusevski has the high-end upside that could completely change the trajectory of the franchise.
Standing 7’0 with a 7’3 wingspan, Pokusevski has the length of an NBA center but the fluidity and game of a shooting guard. 15 years ago NBA teams would have tried to move Pokusevski into the paint but in today’s game, he will be utilized as a combo guard on offense and a paint patrolling big on defense.
Watching Pokusevski’s game is awe-inspiring and has no obvious NBA comparison. His ability to start and stop at such a gargantuan size is uncanny and he backs it all up with a fluid jump shot and audacious passing.
The reason why Pokusevski isn’t a bonafide top-10 pick is that he carries a rail-thin frame, his quality of opponent has been very poor, and his uncertain defensive potential. The concerns over Pokusevski’s frame are warranted but not nearly as important when his offensive game is so perimeter-oriented.
While Pokusevski hasn’t played much against Europe’s elite talent he has been in a professional setting since he was 13 and made his Euroleague debut at only 17-years-old, which spells some concerns over the quality of competition argument. His inconsistent defensive effort is certainly a concern but for a player with such prodigious offensive talent, it seems overstated for a player so clearly above his competition level.
There is serious bust potential with Pokusevski but his upside could be as one of the league’s most unguardable offensive talents. His height and quick release mean almost every shot of his will be uncontested and his playmaking chops could see him carve up teams foolish enough to send a center to cover him on the perimeter.
If his body never fills out and his defense remains absent then Pokusevski could end up being just another lightning rod scorer that gives up too much on the defensive end to make it work. The Rockets don’t need a sure thing they need a star and Pokusevski could be just that.