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NBA News: Oklahoma City Thunder Waive Forward

Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault reacts to his team before a play against the Sacramento Kings during the second quarter at Paycom Center.

The Aleksej Pokusevski era in Oklahoma City is over. On Friday morning, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Thunder are waiving the Serbian forward. The 21 year-old was drafted by Oklahoma City with the 17th pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

NBA News: Oklahoma City Thunder Waive Forward

Pokusevski’s Time with the Thunder

Once considered an important part of the franchise’s future, Pokusevski has seen his role diminish since his rookie campaign in 2020-21.

That season saw the Oklahoma City Thunder forward appear in 45 contests, starting 28 of them, and averaging 24.2 minutes per game.

A sprained ankle during an offseason workout caused Pokusevski to miss most of training camp ahead of the current season.

In 2023-24, he has only appeared in 10 games, averaging 1.2 points, 1 rebound, and 0.8 assists in six minutes per game.

The 14 minutes played against the Denver Nuggets on October 29th are the most he has received this year. The Thunder lost that game 128-95, with Pokusevski proving ineffective, recording only one point and two turnovers.

The writing had been on the wall for Pokusevski, as the Thunder made clear to him during the summer.

Injury Woes for Thunder’s Forward

Injuries have marred the talented prospect’s time in the NBA. Pokusevski’s healthiest season came in 2021-22, where managed to play in 61 games. He then suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg during the 2022-23 campaign, in which he only played 34 games. Unfortunately for Pokusevski, this injury coincided with Oklahoma City’s ascension.

The Thunder drafted Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren in the 2022 NBA draft, pushing Pokusevski further down the pecking order.

Williams narrowly missed out on the 2022-23 Rookie of the Year, finishing in second place behind the Orlando Magic’s Paolo Banchero. The Oklahoma City Thunder forward has solidified himself as the clear #2 option behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The former UC Santa Clara star received minor All-Star consideration this season, boasting averages of 19.2 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists.

Despite missing the entire 2022-23 season with a Lisfranc injury, Holmgren has come on strong in 2023-24. The uber-talented big is a strong contender for this year’s Rookie of the Year award, and is averaging 16.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.7 blocks. Listed as 7’1 with a 7’6 wingspan, the 21 year old is connecting on nearly 40 percent of his 4.3 three-point attempts per game.

Oklahoma City is in a four-way battle for the #1 seed in the Western Conference. Alongside them are the Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Minnesota Timberwolves. The Thunder have the seventh-easiest schedule of games remaining in the regular season.

What’s Next for Pokusevski?

Pokusevski will likely have suitors around the league. Numerous teams are already out of the playoff race and will be looking to assess their rosters for next season. If Pokusevski can stay healthy, he certainly has the ability to carve out a role in an NBA rotation, if given the right opportunity.


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