Start time - 8:00 p.m. (CT)
Broadcaster - Bally Sports Oklahoma
OKC come into this game on the back of a loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Thunder were blown out by Sacramento and the game got away from the team in the fourth quarter. It was an important game with real implications; that loss has entrenched the Thunder within the top-5 of the Draft Lottery.
Despite the loss, I was relatively happy with the Thunder’s work on the defensive end of the floor. It sounds like a weird thing to focus on, particularly after a game where the Thunder gave up 131 points, but I thought the Thunder executed their game plan well.
Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento’s best player, was not allowed to settle into his preferred spot on the block and run the offense. Sabonis is one of the best passing big men in the league and the Thunder did a good job of containing his playmaking. Sabonis had 7 assists but turned the ball over 8 times.
Eventually, the Kings stopped passing the ball into Domantas and relied on their other scoring options to carry the load. While the results were not ideal for the Thunder, the process made a lot of sense and was based off sound reasoning.
Gilgeous-Alexander was again excellent against the Kings but his strong play has almost become the norm. The player who really stood out to me was Vit Krejci. Krejci was acquired by the Thunder on draft night in 2020 and we knew very little about him.
Vit had played professional basketball in Spain for Basket Zaragoza in the Liga ACB and seemed the archetypal Presti pick. In the run up to the Draft, Krejci was described as being a point forward with very good passing skills. His fit with the Thunder made sense.
However, Vit suffered a left knee injury towards the end of his time in Spain which meant that he missed significant portions of his first season in Oklahoma. Krejci came over and spent his first year with the team rehabilitating his injury which meant that he did not play at all.
This is the first time that we have been able to see him play with our own eyes and I am pretty happy with what I have seen from him so far. Krejci’s work off the ball is his most noticeable skill. He interprets space well and readily cuts through the defense to make himself available for a basket.
His cutting is only more valuable next to a player like Gilgeous-Alexander who frequently collapses the defense and opens up secondary playmaking opportunities for his teammates. Good cutters create confusion and I believe that Krejci could be an excellent cutter.
The young Czech is also surprisingly adept at navigating NBA defenses and dishing the ball to his teammates. Vit is limited in terms of passing vision but his patience as a passer means that he is effective with the ball in hand. His offense is not rushed and he is happy to wait for a scoring opportunity to develop before getting the ball to one of his teammates.
I would like to see Vit get more run time with the main roster over the last 20 games. The Thunder are at the point of the season where we will start to see which young players are worth keeping around for the long-term future of the team. The only way to determine whether Vit fits the team going forward is to play him minutes.
Nikola Jokic is the prime example of a team’s patience and careful development paying off. The Nuggets took Jokic in the second round and nurtured his talent over the course of three years until he became an All-NBA talent. OKC choosing to do the same with their young talent would be a wise decision.