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Why the Spurs chose Devin Vassell over Tyrese Haliburton

Oct 21, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots the ball
Oct 21, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots the ball / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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In the 2020 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected Devin Vassell 11th overall, and many fans including myself were thrilled about the pick. I had Vassell as a top-five prospect coming into draft night but recognized that teams may pass him up in favor of players with potentially higher upside. After all, his Freshman teammate from Florida State, Patrick Williams, was surprisingly selected 4th overall by the Chicago Bulls, just to name one example.

While I initially--and still--see Vassell's selection as a home run, one player stops many from agreeing with that sentiment: Tyrese Haliburton. He was selected only one pick later than Vassell in the draft by the Sacramento Kings and, in his first couple of seasons with the team, he's looked like a budding star. He would ultimately be traded in a blockbuster deal before last season's trade deadline to bring Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento, but in his 77 combined games last season, he averaged 15.3 points, 8.2 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. Both Vassell and Haliburton had standout performances in their matchup this past Friday.

If one were to poll a group of casual or even avid basketball watchers asking which of Vassell or Haliburton is the better player, Haliburton would almost certainly win that battle for now. The Vassell vs. Haliburton debate often lacks nuance beyond comparing stats, though, so here I'll aim to explain the Spurs' rationale behind selecting Vassell over Haliburton, what could have changed the team's decision, and why it's too early to say who will have the better career.

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