Should the Utah Jazz take a chance on Aleksej Pokusevski?

With player development as the focus, should Utah claim Aleksej Pokusevski off of waivers?
Pokusevski drives against the Charlotte Hornets
Pokusevski drives against the Charlotte Hornets / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder waived their 2020 1st-round draft pick, 7'2" Aleksej "Poku" Pokusevski on Friday, which sparked a forest fire of questions across the league. Questions about his standing with his team, his development or lack thereof, and if any teams should take a chance on the long-term project from Belgrade, Serbia.

Pokusevski was always going to be a project. With their embarrassment of draft riches, Sam Presti and company took on the task of developing the gangly Poku into an NBA rotation player. In the modern NBA, where big playmakers and offensive initiators dominate, a 7-footer with range and guard skills seems like a no-brainer prospect for a rebuilding team like OKC.

In the transition to the NBA, Poku struggled to adjust to the size and strength of his competition. He floats around the court and looks effortless while dribbling and passing the ball. Like the graceful gazelle of the savannah, Poku has the length and agility to dash away from danger and doesn't look as awkward as you'd expect from someone of his size.

Unfortunately, the Thunder didn't want a gazelle that retreats at the sight of danger--they wanted a gazelle toting a shotgun. Oklahoma City's is way ahead of schedule and they accidentally became one of the top teams in the league over the offseason. With the return of Chet Holmgren, and OKC's championship aspirations, coach Mark Daigneault couldn't make time to tinker with Poku in his lineups.

At only 22 years old, Poku may be a valuable pickup for a rebuilding team hoping to find something that their original teams didn't have the patience for. With Utah standing strong in its effort to patiently rebuild, a young developing talent like him could be a perfect match.

Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day
Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages

With Poku newly single and ready to mingle, his free-agency Tinder profile should grab the attention of GMs across the NBA. Hi, I'm Aleksej. I'm the one you've been waiting for but don't think you'll be done waiting any time soon. I'm 7 feet tall, so you have nothing to worry about there. I want to find someone willing to hold my hand and take it slow. My ex told me I was holding her back, so I need someone who loves me for me and promises to go all the way.

Utah is going all in on developing its youth. It's been fun to see Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh get increased minutes and see what they're capable of on an NBA floor. After Utah's most recent loss to Charlotte, the feeling in the Jazz organization is that winning is not as high of a priority as developing young talent. With Poku's unique combination of size and skill set, I would be fascinated to see how Utah could develop and integrate him into its system.

Before this season (the return of Poku 2.0: Chet Holmgren), in a relatively limited time, Poku has averaged 7.5 points and 2 assists per game, plus his shot-blocking potential, Utah would be the perfect landing spot for a player whose development was too slow for the Thunder. Ryan Smith and Danny have made it clear that to build a long-standing championship contender, patience will be paramount. Why not take a chance on a player whose potential could be worth waiting for?

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