The 2020-21 San Antonio Spurs had six players born after 1996, with Devin Vassell being the youngest. This season's squad has nine. It'll certainly be new territory in every sense for Gregg Popovich's guys, as the young guys fans have been clamoring to see more of will suddenly be asked to sink or swim all at once.
With NBA experience at a minimum for much of the roster, it's hard to predict exactly how the Silver and Black will do this season, as they'll have plenty of things to figure out on the fly. One thing that is certain, however, is the young core is hungry.
"It's time for the new guys to come in and show we're here and we're not going nowhere," said Vassell in his Spurs Stories segment. "I think fans will see a Devin Vassell this season. I think you'll see a lot more of my game and the person and player Devin Vassell is."
In his rookie season in San Antonio, Vassell averaged 5.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game in limited minutes. His basketball intelligence and effectiveness on both sides of the ball, especially the defensive end, were undeniable. I wouldn't be surprised if Vassell shaped up to be the best defender on the team by the time he turns 23 -- probably even sooner.
Still, it'll be a combination of the lineup surrounding him and the team's necessity for breakout players that will truly show us what Devin is made of. The Spurs addressed both outside shooting and defensive issues this offseason, parting ways with DeMar DeRozan while also re-acquiring Bryn Forbes and signing Doug McDermott. They also signed Jock Landale, who could surprisingly offer a little bit of both this season.
With DeRozan's departure, it'll be harder to collapse everyone into the paint, as defenses effectively did all season long last year. The need for more minutes from two-way guys like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Vassell should lead to more production across the board.
"We have a really good team and I feel like we're going to surprise a lot of people," said Vassell. "All of us are very hungry. It's our time now." It is indeed, Mr. Vassell.