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2022-23 Atlanta Hawks player preview: Vit Krejci

2022-23 NBA Abu Dhabi Games - Atlanta Hawks v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Vít Krejčí is the newest member of the Atlanta Hawks’ 14 man roster as it currently stands, having been acquired for Maurice Harkless along with draft considerations late in the offseason. The move was, frankly, a salary dump to shed around $3 million in salary and dip under the luxury tax line, a move which may net the franchise tens of millions in dollars in tax redistribution money. Despite this cynical business-like move, it may pay some additional dividends on the court as Krejčí, while still largely a project of a player, offers some high level ball handling and court vision unusual for someone his size.

Krejčí was originally drafted by the Washington Wizards in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft and was shortly thereafter sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he spent one season overseas with his professional club Basket Zaragoza in the Spanish Liga ACB. After tearing his ACL early in that next season, he came over to the Thunder’s G League affiliate the Oklahoma City Blue to rehab his knee and spend time nearest his future franchise.

The following offseason, he signed a multi-year contract with the Thunder to be a part of their rebuilding effort. However, only the first year of that contract was fully guaranteed, meaning Atlanta will assume the Czech’s non-guaranteed contract up until his guarantee date on January 10, 2023. He does also possess a team option in his contract for the 2023-24 season, should he not be waived before the end of this season.

On the court, Krejčí offers some real dramatics as a 6’8” guard/wing with a tight handle and flashy one armed passes that he can equally zip to the opposite corner or kick out to shooters with a behind the back flip. Despite his passivity in looking to score, he has chipped in across the board, averaging 9.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals per 36 minutes in his NBA career. To date, Vít has only seen NBA action in 30 contests at 23 minutes a clip, most of that coming in the second half of Oklahoma City’s season last year during which winning took a backseat to player development.

Certainly the argument can be made that his development thus far has sagged at the cost of a long term rebuild, with few accomplished veterans in that locker room to establish winning habits. And so, with the Czech arriving in Atlanta in an environment looking to truly compete in the near and far future, it’s possible a change in scenery can elicit a breakout season for him.

Krejčí’s main skills originate on the ball where he is a gifted ball handler and passer. Vít has a killer crossover and tangible shiftiness to lose his defender off the bounce, both in half court situations as well as in transition. And he has the requisite bounce necessary to leap and finish at the rim, although his slender frame often prevents him from finishing through contact.

Krejčí has also demonstrated some skill in running screen actions and finding cutters with pocket passes and lobs over the top. At roughly a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in his rookie season, he largely made good decisions in distributing the ball while not forcing passes into traffic. In one example during a shocking 21-point blowout win over the Phoenix Suns late in last season, Krejčí tallied a career high eight assists despite an undermanned ensemble of players around him. Even when Vít operates as a connector wing and not an initiator, he’s smart about keeping the ball moving quickly and unsettling the defense.

Below is one nifty behind the back assist to Lindy Waters from a catch in the corner against the Hawks as a member of the Thunder last season.

Here, Krejčí shows his quick crossover from the corner to leave behind his defender on his path to the rim.

And most recently in preseason action for the Hawks, check out the behind the back hockey assist in traffic in Abu Dhabi against the Milwaukee Bucks.

There is some real promise in Krejčí’s jump shot too, having shot 32.7% from deep in limited NBA action so far. His skill set includes fluid looking pull up jumpers off fakes and resets as well as situations coming off screens and stopping and popping.

Still, he needs to learn to position and move off the ball if his future in the NBA is as a wing, and he is by no means a devastating catch-and-shoot or catch-and-go wing to threaten defenses yet. As most of his value lies on the ball, and the Hawks possess two All-Star level ball handlers, it will be hard to get Krejčí true reps in initiating an offense during game situations.

Defensively is where he becomes a true liability. Listed at just 195-pounds, he gets pushed around on defense, and his recent ACL tear has robbed him of lateral agility to stay in front of opponents. Despite his height and wingspan, he hasn’t generated a ton of defensive resistance or disruption and will need time to learn how to defend off the ball as a weak side help wing.

He won’t figure to get many — if any — high leverage minutes for the Hawks, as no better than the 13th man on the roster. In fact, he’ll probably compete most with the two Two-Way players, Trent Forrest and Jarrett Culver to find a way into the regular squad and may even see some time with the College Park Skyhawks. But he can be used as an emergency point guard and burst of energy when the ball movement is sagging. There’s truly little risk in investing in a project like Vít Krejčí with no future guaranteed money at stake, and there is real upside possible on the horizon to get excited about.