Vit Krejci came to Atlanta as a project player, and a season later it’s more than fair to say he has yet to shed that label.
After being drafted 37th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, Krejci was promptly traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Later that offseason, he signed a multi-year contract and began his playing career with the G League affiliate Oklahoma City Blue to help rehab a left knee injury he sustained while playing in Europe.
In the 2022 offseason, the Hawks flipped Maurice Harkless for Krejci and the non-guaranteed portion of his contract that runs through 2024-25. With the Hawks this season, however, he saw little meaningful time on the court, registering just 165 minutes — a figure far fewer than the 690 minutes the previous season with the rebuilding Thunder. Krejci logged just 36 points, 26 rebounds, and 17 assists total in that short window of playing time this past season with Atlanta.
At the postseason exit interviews, a lot of his comments were geared toward the difficulty of being healthy and yet seeing such little NBA action. “I learned a lot about the league,” Krejci reflected. “Last year I was coming off of an injury, so everything was happening kind of fast. So this year is the first time I settled in. I appreciate the coaches that helped me through the transition.”
“I haven’t gotten a lot of runs in,” Krejci talked about his lack of game time. “So I’m just going to play a lot of pickups and a lot of games to get my confidence back a bit. It’s just tough not to play for a couple of months and then just hop in. And you can practice all you want, but it’s not the same in a game.”
“The main thing is to stay motivated,” he continued when asked about his mentality during this situation. “It’s tough when you’re on the road for seven days, you play four games, you come back and you don’t see any minutes in the whole road trip. It’s tough to stay motivated. A lot of times, you’re not even motivated so you’ve got to stay really disciplined. That was the whole part for me. Just stay disciplined and still come in early, get some extra work done, keep getting better, and be ready for the opportunity. That was the main thing I learned.”
Vit Krejci is due just over $1.8 million should he remain on the Hawks’ roster past the salary guarantee date of January 10, 2024. His salary also projects to be less than a veteran minimum contract for players with two or more years of experience — projected to be around $2 million for the 2023-24 season — which gives him some extra value in retaining him as the Hawks appear to be very cautious of their perilous position near the luxury tax threshold.
Krejci is a rare third-year player who could truly benefit from an extended summer league stint. The Czech international has very tangible ball handling and passing skills to go along with NBA-level hops, but he lacks the on ball reps and experience in a professional environment. With his late guarantee date, I figure it to be more likely than not he features for the Hawks’ 2023 Summer League team.
As he enters into his third year with fewer than 1000 career NBA minutes under his belt, he turns 23-years-old this July still with much to prove. This could be a make or break stretch for Krejci this offseason, and so his practice in patience this past season should prove to be a valuable chip on his shoulder.