The Oklahoma City Thunder marched into the NBA Draft in November of 2020 and did something unexpected; the franchise traded for the 37th pick and selected Vit Krejci, a player few had heard of.
The Czech Republic hasn't produced a ton of NBA players. In fact, the last time a Czech was drafted was in 2012. That was Tomas Satoransky.
Prior to being drafted, Krejci played limited minutes for Casademont Zaragoza in the Liga Endesa, Spain’s top professional basketball division. While he didn’t see the floor a ton, the 6-foot-8 forward was able to show that he could do a little bit of everything from knocking down tough angle threes to operating pick-and-rolls. And he was doing this at 19 years old. Yet, you couldn’t find his name anywhere on anyone’s big boards. He was a complete unknown.
On September 25th, 2020, about eight weeks before the draft, it was announced that the mystery man had torn his ACL and would require surgery. The following January, Krejci signed with the Oklahoma City Blue and rehabbed his injury.
And then in September of 2021, the franchise signed him to a multi-year deal and he was able to suit up for 30 games in his rookie season where averaged just 6.2 points in 23 minutes and was able to show his potential as a scorer and his effectiveness off-the-ball with his cutting and shooting.
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But there is one big hole in Vit Krejci’s game: his defense. During his tenure in Tulsa, he just hasn’t really been a good defender. He’s had his moments, but overall, his hips have looked stiff, his technique poor and his feet a little too slow.
That continued to be true in July with his Summer League play as well. Perhaps this is due to the aforementioned injury as ACL tears can still negatively affect movement post-rehab.
The pathway for the Czech forward to earn his place in the NBA is clear, however. Teams across the league can never get enough wings who can reliably space the floor and at the very least not be a complete negative on the defensive end.
If Krejci can at least improve a little bit in terms of consistency shooting the ball or defending in space, he has a chance to stick as a role player in the best basketball league in the world.
With the roster crunch looming, if the foreign forward prospect wants to continue playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has historically placed a high value on defense, he will need to level up his play on one, or both sides of the ball.