If the San Antonio Spurs are going to return to past glory sometime in the next few years, they're going to need some big jumps from current players. If I were a betting man, I'd put money on Devin Vassell to be a guy who does so.
Turning just 22 next month, the versatile forward will have more responsibilities than ever before when the 2022-23 season rolls around. With the team's primary playmaker and scorer in Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, it's going to take a while for a new leader to emerge on the court.
Many believe Keldon Johnson will be the one to carry the torch from Murray as option one in San Antonio as the team searches for its next star. The Spurs' recent extension of the 22-year-old seems to hint that they believe that might be the case as well.
But Vassell has shown a similar upward trajectory to Keldon in his young career so far. With an increase in minutes from 17 to 27 in his first two seasons, he increased his scoring on a per-36 minutes basis from 11.6 to 16.2. In the process, he eclipsed the 20-point mark on seven separate occasions last season.
With an open runway ahead of him, here's what Spurs fans can expect from Devin beginning next season.
1. Expect to see some growing pains
It happens to everyone when they start being noticed -- defenses start to make their presence felt more. Now that the Spurs' All-Star is no longer around, I expect playmaking duties to fall to Josh Primo and Tre Jones, with Blake Wesley potentially being a dark-horse candidate to take that throne later in the season.
With all that said, someone is still going to have to put the ball in the hole. While this roster tells me San Antonio will probably be a bottom-three offense in the NBA, these guys are still too talented and driven to just fold. Vassell is going to be asked to do more than ever before, and he'll have to learn some lessons the hard way in the process.
Expect an increase in turnovers, ill-advised decisions, and missed opportunities down the stretch as Vassell learns to adapt to seeing more focused defenses and even the occasional double team with so few offensive options. Still, whether in college or in the NBA, he's always been a quick learner, so I have a feeling he'll see an increase in assists this year as he starts drawing more attention.