The San Antonio Spurs continued stumbling in their latest blowout loss on Tuesday night, suffering a relentless thrashing on national television at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder in their second In-Season Tournament game. This one-sided contest was so much of a snoozefest that TNT threw in the towel in the fourth quarter and aired other competitive matchups around the NBA.
No one can fault the producers for cutting the cord once the deficit ballooned to 29 points with 8:31 remaining in regulation. Charles Barkley even foreshadowed this unmitigated meltdown with a short rant about Devin Vassell at halftime, condemning his shot selection and how it stops him from being more than a "good player" in this league. Sure enough, he went 0-of-4 in the third quarter.
As much as it might stink to give Chuck his flowers, was he right about Vassell? That discussion is not black and white, and the answer lies in a gray area. The numbers suggest the fourth-year swingman is among the best tough shot makers in the association, and the context of San Antonio's situation is an instrumental ingredient in fully understanding his strenuous shot chart this season.
Despite adding a generational talent like Victor Wembanyama to their lineup, the Silver and Black are short on ballhandlers who can collapse defenses with dangerous dribble penetration. Experimenting with Jeremy Sochan at point guard has magnified that problem, and the team was without their most impactful drivers as Tre Jones and Keldon Johnson sat out against Oklahoma City.
There is no doubt Vassell has leaned into challenging looks from the field, but he has mostly done so out of necessity, and the results speak for themselves. As you can see from the above tweet, the 23-year-old shooting guard takes a high volume of contested attempts. While that may be an issue for a run-of-the-mill scorer, Devin has been astonishingly effective with a hand in his face.
Gregg Popovich, Brian Wright, and the front office brain trust showed complete confidence in Vassell when they signed him to a five-year, $146 million contract extension this summer. Getting paid like an All-Star means assuming more self-creation responsibilities for the offense. Could he afford to reel in his quick trigger? Of course. Still, these young Spurs need him to fire away to thrive.