There's more to Devin than meets the eye
Between his freshman and sophomore seasons at Florida State, Vassell developed his dribble pull-ups and interior scoring to bring a more dynamic offensive threat to the defensive-minded Seminoles. Devin’s 3-point volume increased with little impact on his efficiency, and his scoring average spiked with about five more 2-point field goals per game.
For a Spurs team working itself into a new direction, the second half of this season could pave a yellow brick road toward Vassell’s offensive emergence as a pro. The eye test and analytics each back up the notion that the 21-year-old is adapting to the NBA smoothly.
Like in college, Vassell’s 3-point efficiency has remained relatively the same from his introductory year to the next despite doubling his volume. Hitting 35.1% on five deep shots per game, the Georgia native is growing more comfortable off the catch-and-shoot by navigating to open spots on the court and staying ready for his next shot.
Tied with Doug McDermott for the Spurs’ most catch-and-shoot threes per game, Vassell is draining many of his looks when defenders are drawn to the paint by a teammate’s gravity. With an impressively consistent shooting form and high release point, Vassell is able to knock down jumpers at a consistent clip regardless of the defensive coverage.
All the while, Vassell’s ability to score at the rim and dribble into pull-up jumpers grows more consistent with each day. The sophomore’s efficiency on 2-pointers is more than 7% better than in his rookie year. He’s shooting 43.5% on pull-up attempts—a near 3% improvement from the year prior.
While the jump shot has always been a sticking point for Vassell, the promising lottery talent is an exceptional finisher who doesn’t get the chance to show it enough. Combining a long reach and soft touch at the basket, Vassell is hitting 54.7 percent of his shots off of drives. He already has more dunks this year (15) in fewer minutes than he logged in his entire rookie year (14).
Contradictory to his wiry frame, Vassell is quite strong near the rim. He’s able to absorb contact and adjust his shot when attacking the paint. Between a knack for floating the ball into the basket or banking it off glass, defenders are oftentimes dumbfounded when Devin gains steam toward the basket.
Through the second half of a transitional season, it’s imperative that the Spurs’ coaching staff nurtures the confidence of their first lottery pick since Tim Duncan. More designed plays that result in a shot for Devin at the rim -- such as cuts to the basket using one of Pop’s coveted off-ball screens -- could help boost the team’s offense while making him more comfortable leveraging his gravity outside of the arc into better shots inside.