By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The name of 2001-born Aleksej Pokusevski appears more and more on the upcoming NBA draft previews. However, his coach in Olympiacos, Giorgos Bartzokas, believes that the young player will enter the draft and will leave Europe this summer.
“I think that Aleksej Pokusevski will enter the draft, and I believe that he will be picked,” Bartzokas said about his player in a long live interview with Eurohoops.
As he explained: “We have NBA scouts for him almost in every practice and me and my coaching staff is getting a tone of calls for him. At this point, there’s pressure in the NBA on this matter. Teams don’t want to miss the next Doncic or the next Jokic. Those two players created anxiety to the NBA teams, which are asking themselves, why Dallas picked Doncic and how the Nuggets picked a fat guy, and now he almost averages a triple-double. They want to find a similar case in Europe. That’s why any player with potential is under the microscope, and Pokusevski is exactly that. He is more than 7-feet tall with shoes, he has a great wingspan and has great basketball instincts. He is great with the ball on his hands, he can shoot and pass, he can play the pick and roll, and he can also put the ball on the floor.”
According to Bartzokas, the potential of Pokusevski is tantalizing, even though he is not ready yet for the NBA: “On the other hand, he has issues with his lack of physicality, which is something natural. And there’s also the question in which position he can defend and by extension in which position he will play in the NBA. For example, I was asked, can he be the next Bjelica? Can he be the next Nowitzki? What I can say for sure at this point is that I am surprised by his basketball IQ. His environment will play a pivotal role – because he is still a kid – and also his work ethic. He has potential. I don’t think that he is ready to play in the NBA, and he will need to go to a team that will work with him and develops him for the next two or three years.”
Pokusevski so far has appeared for less than two minutes in a EuroLeague game – against ASVEL – but as a member of the Olympiacos development team in the Greek second division, he is among the team leaders.
Not an ideal situation for EuroLeague clubs
While producing NBA-level talent can bring prestige to a European club and financial gains from the buyout, it’s not a perfect scenario for big EuroLeague clubs who are losing their top talents, before getting the chance to take advantage of them on the court.
“When I was coaching Barcelona, I also have some prospects from the second team, and among them was Rodion Kurucs, which is a good example,” explained Bartzokas. “I was criticized for him when we started the pre-season, I even used him as a starter, but he was not mature yet. And then, he had two surgeries during the season. He practically didn’t play at all, he was drafted, he went to Brooklyn, and now he has a role on an NBA team. So the clubs invest in those players, they spent money, they have a great responsibility because they are kids. You have to grow them not only as players but as persons. And all those players who have an obvious talent and they will peak at some point; they will finally peak in the NBA. EuroLeague teams will rarely have the chance to gain something on the court from those players. I am not talking financially, because they will gain a buyout.”
Bartzokas believes that the same scenario will happen again in Barcelona, this time with Argentinian prospect Leandro Bolmaro: “There’s Bolmaro in Barcelona, who got the chance to get some minutes this season, due to injuries. And that’s it. When the senior players returned, he didn’t have the chance to play. I expect him to be among the 15 top picks this year, Barcelona will get a buyout, but the club will never have the chance to take real advantage of his talent on the court”.