San Antonio Spurs News

5 Silver and black linings to Spurs' first tank season since '96

Sacramento Kings  v San Antonio Spurs
Sacramento Kings v San Antonio Spurs / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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San Antonio Spurs
Devin Vassell / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

2. Devin Vassell is poised for a breakout campaign

Before Sochan, the Spurs' highest draft pick since Tim Duncan was none other than Devin Vassell: A rangy wing with exceptional defensive instincts and a smooth jumper to match. While there's a lot more to his game than his role, Vassell has been an excellent 3-and-D player in the early stage of his career.

Basketball Index (BBI) graded him at an A- or higher in 3-Point Shot Quality, On-Ball Perimeter Defense, Steals per 75 Possessions, and Off-Ball Chasing through the 2021-22 season. He moves with decisiveness and vigor away from the ball on either side of the ball. Vassell positions himself for scoring opportunities by rotating on the perimeter and cutting in unison with his teammates' activity. Defensively, he roams the court and identifies opportunities to alter shots or force turnovers using his long reach.

And yet there's more to Vassell than the 3-and-D role he's been relegated to. Though it's a strong foundational skill-set that he can always fall back on, the upcoming season will give him a chance at expanding his horizons. Vassell's ball-handling has improved every year dating back to his freshman campaign at Florida State as he unlocks new ways to leverage his ability and find space to spot up for jumpers.

Though his isolation sample size was extremely low, Vassell was effective in limited opportunities and rarely turned the ball over during those chances. Ball screens are also a big help for Vassell, who uses the small window of space to fit in a jump shot and shift the momentum of a play. This was on display when his team had its back against the wall in the Play-In game versus New Orleans.

Vassell drilled seven 3-pointers to lead the Spurs in scoring despite some rough output from his teammates. This was the culmination of a late-season push from Vassell, who averaged 15.1 points per game while shooting 42.7% on more than six 3-point attempts per game across his final 13 outings. Expect to see more of this in the 2022-23 season when San Antonio puts the ball in his hands and asks him to lead this young core.

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