When it comes to having young talent, the San Antonio Spurs possess an embarrassment of riches. Using wise drafting to fill the team’s needs, San Antonio now has more than a handful of promising players younger than 25 years old.
At age 31, DeMar DeRozan is the team’s only regular starter older than 26, with the rest being Derrick White (26), Jakob Poeltl (25), Dejounte Murray (24), Lonnie Walker (22), and Keldon Johnson (21). G League stars Tre Jones and Luka Samanic also appear to be destined for greater roles as some of the Spurs’ veterans are either traded or move on this offseason.
Lost among casual NBA fans is the play of rookie Devin Vassell, whose efficiency and poise have been that of a 13-year NBA veteran. It’s rare to see praise like this from Coach Popovich about a rookie:
“He’s a really bright young man,” said Coach Popovich after the Spurs’ win over Detroit. “He’s got a great personality, good teammate. He’s been exceptional.”
Exceptional is undoubtedly one way to put it — incredibly efficient is another. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers Vassell is putting up in limited on-court minutes.
- 42 percent 3-point shooting (1st on the team)
- 30 steals (2nd on team despite playing fewer minutes than all Spurs in top 8)
- 2.2 steals per 36 min (1st on the team)
- 0.9 TO per game (fewest of anyone in regular rotation)
The last couple of stats are part of an even more impressive NBA record the rookie had in just his first few games when he had11 consecutive games with at least a steal while committing zero turnovers.
These just aren’t things rookies are supposed to do. They’re supposed to get lost on closeouts, commit silly turnovers, and make boneheaded plays in the guts of the game. Devin does none of that.
Devin Vassell is the San Antonio Spurs’ next silent assassin
The Spurs have a history of silent assassins executing with deadly precision while keeping to themselves. Of course, Tim Duncan was the ultimate example of that, which frustrated loud opponents like Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal to no end.
Kawhi Leonard was the next star to fit that label, with his silence and shyness essentially becoming his calling card to this day. The Spurs’ latest superstar, DeMar DeRozan, wears his emotions on his sleeve, making him a different kind of assassin.
Keldon Johnson and Derrick White, two other candidates to be the team’s next breakout star, also get pretty animated on the court and are far from quiet and reserved.
On the other hand, Devin Vassell checks into games, makes key plays, and then goes back to the bench like he just finished stocking shelves. When I first read about the young man from Florida State, I knew he would fit perfectly into the Spurs’ culture, but I had no idea he’d be just as promising on the court as he appeared to be off it.
At just 20-years-old and demonstrating remarkable awareness for the game, it’s scary to think about how good Devin will be in the years to come. The Spurs found themselves another killer, and he’s going to sneak up on the league before we know it.