In the San Antonio Spurs’ preseason opener against the OKC Thunder, Devin Vassell was a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster game.
In a span of 12 seconds, Devin Vassell stripped a layup attempt cleanly, ran the floor, and buried a three at the top of the key. This third-quarter sequence isn’t the type you usually see from rookies, but the newest San Antonio Spurs lottery pick isn’t a typical rookie.
“He did a fine job,” Popovich said postgame of Vassell. “He’s competitive. He plays the game wisely. He did a fine job.” In a game in which San Antonio gave up a staggering 73 points to the Thunder in the first half, Devin was one of the few guys on the floor playing inspired defense all night long.
Ending the night with three steals and a block to go along with his 12 points, the 6-6 guard was the talk of the team after the 121-108 loss, as reported by the Express-News.
“He has heart,” said Rudy Gay. “He’s smart. He knows how to play. That’s something not a lot of young players have. It’s still early, but I see him getting better and better and better.”
Rudy makes a good point. It’s easy to overreact to one preseason game, whether it’s positively or negatively. Everyone has been waiting for Spurs action since August, so emotions can generally run high with so much anticipation.
Still, certain plays I saw Vassell make gave me reasons to believe he’ll be special very soon. Play one is a third-quarter sequence that saw Vassell make a heads-up play on both ends of the court.
1. Vassell stops a breakaway, seals the play with a trey
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 13, 2020
As described earlier, this is one play that made me think, “That’s not a rookie out there.” Vassell’s awareness is on full display here on both ends, as he strips the ball and then gets to an open spot as Dejounte Murray drives and misses a shot. He then wraps up the possession by nailing a three from the top.
2. Vassell’s gamble pays offhttps://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/12/12/0012000008/635/c2f08eb7-5107-e94c-3239-63954c024f94_1280x720.mp4
This is an example of a gamble that could’ve gone wrong. With his man in the corner, Vassell watches the ball from the edge of the paint area. As the entry pass is made, Devin goes for it, using his crazy wingspan to intercept the pass and head the other way.
3. Devin plays possum, gets a monster blockhttps://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/12/12/0012000008/622/d54849fd-bb1f-bcac-9c57-5655c6f1a701_1280x720.mp4
Sensing a theme yet? Yes, Vassell’s shooting was a good sign too, but the Spurs need his defense more than anything. Here, he stands his ground on the perimeter, eventually allowing the drive, knowing he can use his length to get the stop. He does exactly that, in an emphatic fashion.
While we’d all like to see Derrick White and Keldon Johnson back on the floor as soon as possible, one silver lining to them being sidelined is the increased minutes for Vassell. It’s still early, but don’t be surprised to see him more often if he keeps up his inspired play.