Jan 25, 2020; Tallahassee, Florida, USA; NBA Draft prospect Devin Vassell (24) celebrates after a play against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half at Donald L. Tucker Center. (Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports)
There’s a lot to like about the San Antonio Spurs most recent draft pick
The San Antonio Spurs absolutely nailed their first lottery pick since 1997 with their selection of Devin Vassell from Florida State University. He’s not quite on the level of their last lottery pick but then again, who is? Still, this is a young man who will be a great addition to the team.
Vassell has been on our radar for months now. With his excellent combination of size, athleticism, shooting ability, and defense, he fits nearly every area of need for San Antonio.
This selection is another notch in the belt of the Spurs front office who have proven time and time again that, come draft time, they’re the best in the business.
By adding Vassell to a pretty impressive young core of Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, Derrick White, and Dejounte Murray, they’ve taken another step in establishing a young core that they can build the next decade around.
Many Spurs rookies expect to spend a hefty amount of time of their first season with the Austin Spurs but Vassell might be the rare exception. With Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli both hitting unrestricted free agency there could be a window for him to carve out significant playing time from the beginning.
Whether he plays in San Antonio right away or not there’s still a lot to like about this young man. Here are three things you should love about this pick.
Devin Vassell gives San Antonio Spurs great positional versatility
In the bubble, injuries to two crucial big men backed the San Antonio Spurs into a corner. With LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles sitting out the Spurs went small and the results were surprisingly encouraging.
They pushed the pace – over their final eight games the Spurs averaged the 4th fastest pace in the NBA – and they scored a ton. When they finally got out and running, San Antonio had the 9th best offensive rating in the league.
By going small and positionless they were able to switch everything on defense and drive and kick opposing defenses to death. Vassell can play right into that style of play.
Standing 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan, Vassell should be able to lock up guards and wings from his first days in the NBA. His frame is pretty slight right now but if he dedicates himself to packing on muscle during his rookie year there is a possibility he could even play some power forward for the Spurs, similar to how they used DeMar DeRozan in the bubble.
We will have to wait to see how they use him but Vassell’s got the size and skill to give the Spurs plenty of options. Gregg Popovich and the rest of the coaching staff will surely come up with plenty of ways to get him on the court.
Next: A lockdown defender
Devin Vassell instantly elevates the San Antonio Spurs defense
First and foremost, Vassell truly seems to enjoy playing defense. Passion and energy on that end of the floor can be an issue for some young players but not this young man. He seems to take pride in locking down the opposing team’s best scorer, and he should.
If you want him to lock up his man for a full 94 feet he’ll do it, if he gets beat, which is rare, he will do everything he can to recover and make a play at the rim, he will dive for loose balls and he will get out in transition to get easy points after a turnover. He’s going to give you 100 percent every night, of that you can be sure.
Frankly, that’s one of the biggest things that he’s got going for him. The Spurs coaching staff can teach him the finer points of the game but they can’t teach him how to play hard. And as he’s already a great defender the Spurs coaching staff has to be ecstatic about what they’re getting.
Want to hear something crazy? 30 percent of the pick and roll possession that Vassell guarded ended in a turnover. That’s insane. Given all of the pick and roll that NBA offenses use he should get plenty of exposure and should create plenty of turnovers.
That’s going to go incredibly well with Dejounte Murray’s already impressive knack for generating steals. Between Murray and Vassell the Spurs should have no problem generating easy fast-break opportunities the other way.
It’s hard to overstate the impact that Vassell should have on the Spurs’ defense. After enduring a season where we saw the Spurs regularly deploy two of the worst defenders in the league in Marco Belinelli and Bryn Forbes we’re now getting a near 180-degree shift.
With Vassell, Murray, Derrick White, and Keldon Johnson rotating on the perimeter the Spurs should be able to put the clamps on opposing offenses all across the league.
Next: A potentially great offensive weapon
Florida State guard Devin Vassell, a San Antonio Spurs draft prospect, lines up his 3-point shot Saturday, March 7, 2020.
The San Antonio Spurs desperately needed Vassell’s 3-point shooting
The most obvious and attractive of Vassell’s abilities on the offensive end of the floor is how smoothly he knocks down looks from behind the arc. This young man has as pure of a stroke as you’ll find in the 2020 draft class.
There were some concerns about his form after a video came out of him showing off a new stroke but he refuted those fears by saying he was just messing around after a workout.
He hit 42 percent of his 3.5 3-point shots per game during his sophomore year at Florida State, with many of them coming from well into NBA range. He’ll immediately be able to come in and give the Spurs an additional, and much needed, weapon from deep.
The problem for San Antonio has never been with their 3-point accuracy, they were the fourth-most accurate 3-point shooting team in the league last year, it’s with their volume. They put up the 28th most 3-point attempts in the league last year. When they’re matching up with teams who have no problem letting it fly from deep they’re automatically at a disadvantage.
Vassell’s accuracy is great for San Antonio. But coming in as one of their best 3-point options the Spurs coaching staff is going to have to break from the norm and give Vassell the green light right away. He only shot 4.4 3-pointers per 36 minutes during his final season at Florida State. He should easily eclipse that figure in his rookie season.
There’s more to like about Vassell’s offensive game besides just outside shooting. He’s got some skill off the bounce and looks comfortable dribbling into his looks from deep. He’s also shown an ability to hit pull-up mid-range jumpers when he needs to. Watch his highlights from this season and you’ll also often see him go to a side-step or step-back look that he looks very comfortable with.
Those are all great things to build on for the future but during his rookie season, Vassell should focus on doing what he does best – knocking down open threes.
There’s a lot to love about Devin Vassell’s game but his positional versatility, impact on defense, and 3-point shooting are what will endear him to San Antonio Spurs fans right away.