After becoming a solid producer for the first time in his NBA career, Aleksej Pokusevski sustained a non-displaced tibial plateau fracture in the Thunder’s Tuesday night win over the San Antonio Spurs.
This means that there is a break or crack in his left tibia that has not resulted in a fragment of the bone being separated. A 6-8 week injury is never good, but this is probably amongst the better possible outcomes compared to an ACL tear or a displaced fracture that would have resulted in a longer recovery period and greater long-term consequences. This injury can often lead to further complications with the meniscus, but thankfully it seems Pokusevski has avoided this. This is the same injury that Darius Bazley suffered towards the end of last season which has seen him return with no consequences to his athleticism, agility and physical capabilities.
If you’re squeamish, don’t look. He tries to plant his left leg going for a rebound and it just doesn’t quite go down as cleanly as it should’ve. Very awkward looking.
Pokusevski has been having a great year, proving doubters wrong and showing that he might have a place in the NBA after all. Averaging just shy of nine points a game and shooting about 38% from three, his development into a solid role-player has been much welcome. His superb rim protection has been his most impressive area of development and has been needed in the absence of Chet Holmgren. He had 42 blocks in his rookie year, the most for a season so far in his career. But this year he already has 41 with only 31 games played.
Pokusevski becomes the latest in an unfortunately long list of Thunder injuries this season. First, it was the lisfranc injury to Holmgren that saw his season come to an end before it had even begun. Then it was the non-displaced wrist fracture to Ousmane Dieng’s right wrist that has him set to miss at least 6 weeks. This was shortly followed up by an ankle sprain to Jeremiah Robinson-Earl who is currently on a week-to-week basis.
None of these injuries should cause any long-term harm to their development, but missing time for any type of injury can result in setbacks in development. Dieng had been showing frequent flashes of his star scoring upside prior to the injury but upon his return, he’ll likely be faced with trouble getting back into rhythm. With that being said, injuries have a silver lining of also opening up development opportunities for others. The Thunder have a roster stacked with young guys in need of development so there will be many trying to take advantage of this.
Jaylin Williams, the Thunder’s 34th pick in the 2022 draft, has been recalled from the G-League after his impressive stint that saw him average 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists in the Showcase event. He will look to take advantage of this opportunity and translate his impressive play into the big leagues. Look for him to start being the team’s go-to big man, alongside veteran Mike Muscala.
Williams’ G-League outings showed potential as a playmaker who can pass out of the high post and be an effective roll-man in the pick-and-roll. He’s still far from ready to contribute positively to an NBA team in large minutes on a consistent basis, so that’s when sharpshooting center Muscala comes into play. It’s great that others are getting more of a chance to shine now, but centers playing the Thunder in the next 6-8 weeks have marked their calendars and will very much be looking forward to taking on the Thunder.
Pokusevski’s fight back starts now and whilst it’s a disappointing bump in the road amid a fruitful season for the young third-year player out of Serbia, he’ll be back and ready to continue on this promising development track.