It’s no secret that I’ve been a fan of Devin Vassell‘s game from the beginning. I’ve covered him positively numerous times since he was drafted, including glowing words from his former coach, plays that have made him stand out, and a writeup of what sets him apart from all other rookies. Despite how effective he’s been on the court, the San Antonio Spurs have been using him minimally upon Derrick White’s return.
There’s no question White is the more complete and experienced player, so the issue isn’t so much White playing over Vassell — it’s more about how drastically Devin’s minutes have been cut in the last two games. After averaging 18.3 minutes through 18 games played, Vassell only saw 10.6 minutes of playing time in the two games against Memphis. On top of that, seven of his 11 minutes Monday were in garbage time.
Cutting Vassell’s minutes by 16 percent, especially given his defensive acumen, just can’t happen. After remaining in the top 10 in defensive rating for much of the season, the Spurs have now dipped to 17th in the league after the two embarrassing losses to Memphis.
Whose minutes should the San Antonio Spurs be cutting into?
With the logjam the Spurs now have at the guard position, finding substantial minutes for everyone is a challenging task. First of all, Derrick White needs to be inserted back into the starting lineup as soon as possible.
Lonnie Walker has shown he is capable of being a primary scoring option when given the green light. White looks as fresh as he ever has. It’s time to stop messing around and get him back where he belongs.
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Some guys Coach Popovich should look to cut back on in favor of more minutes for Vassell are Rudy Gay and Lonnie. Gay played 21 minutes per game in the two-game Memphis series, averaging nine points and 3.5 rebounds per game. On defense, he hardly moved the needle.
Meanwhile, Walker averaged 20.6 minutes in the same series, averaging 8.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in that stretch.
Given the history of rookie playing time and the Spurs, I guess you could say Vassell was fortunate even to get the minutes he was getting without White.
It’s pretty apparent he’s no ordinary rookie, though. Relegating him to mostly garbage-time minutes shouldn’t be in the playbook at all.
Luckily, Coach Popovich hasn’t stated that’s his plan. In fact, he believes the problem of distributing minutes will be fluid depending on matchups. When asked about finding minutes for every worthy member of the team, he responded to the San Antonio Express-News:
“Every game is different. Every game calls for different adjustments. As the game goes on, those decisions are made.”
It’s hard to see a matchup where a versatile player like Vassell should be relegated to last in the pecking order, but it will be something to keep an eye on going forward. Reducing him to 10 minutes per game, though? That’s just not the answer.