After over two decades, San Antonio’s epic run has finally come to a close. Three consecutive seasons ended in a lottery appearance for the Spurs and marked the end of an era. Trading homegrown All-Star Dejounte Murray is a clear sign that GM Brian Wright is committed to bottoming out.
The Spurs roster is now a leaderless group of youngsters with mixed upsides. Their 2019 first-round pick, Keldon Johnson, got an extension recently and will be a cornerstone for the rebuild. Josh Primo is one of the youngest players in the league and will really show what he can do in a consistent role this season. Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, and Blake Wesley are a talented rookie trio. Armed with all of their first round picks in upcoming drafts, the future is bright for the Silver and Black.
Today I want to talk about another young Spur: Devin Vassell. He was the 11th pick in 2020, and has had two really promising campaigns to start his career. With increased opportunity in year three, I expect him to make a huge leap. Let’s dive into his game and find out why.
Vassell fits the mold of a modern wing to a tee. From the day he donned an NBA jersey he’s been able to knock down the deep ball and play defense.
He connected on a quality 37.9% of his 4.8 catch & shoot tries per game from behind the arc in 2021-22 (via NBA.com). He posted a few big-time performances from downtown, including a 7-13 game against New Orleans in the play-in.
When he’s feeling it, it’s tough to slow Vassell down because he’ll just elevate over you with his beautiful jumper and put it through.
The next step for him as a shooter is to hit more on the move like in the clip above. The best shooters can get open off the ball, whether it’s by relocating to open space or flying off a screen.
On the other end, Vassell excels as a thief. He uses his near seven-foot wingspan to disrupt the passing lanes and pick pockets.
His 76 total steals across 71 contests in 2021-22 was good for second-best in San Antonio behind league leader Dejounte Murray.
He uses his length to his advantage as a shot blocker too, serving up unsuspecting opponents with emphatic swats.
Vassell’s on-ball D is solid as well. He contains players his size on the perimeter and stays strong when bigger wings try to back him up.
He does sometimes struggle to stay in front of quicker guards, and is best suited defending his position.
Another area of growth for Devin is screen navigation. He weighs in around 200 pounds, and his slimness hinders him when he’s trying to weave around a pick.
Overall, Vassell is already a great complementary piece with his two-way ability. The Spurs are in need of more though, as even before the Murray trade they lacked a go-to scorer. Vassell could be that guy.
The reason I believe that is he has the shot every elite bucket-getting wing has in their wheelhouse: the mid-range pull-up.
I could throw together a 15+ minute compilation of Vassell middies. His magnificent sky-high release is perfect for scoring in the in-between.
In an age of analytics and the three-ball, many fail to recognize just how much of a weapon the mid-range is. It makes good scorers great ones, and when the game slows down in the playoffs shot creators are crucial. Vassell could be one of the best in the league in that area which could be the key to him becoming a star.
He reminds me a lot of Khris Middleton from a scoring standpoint. As his three-pointer continues to develop, Devin could grow into a walking 20-piece with his patient and effortless pull-ups.
The skill I’m most interested to watch for Vassell this season is his playmaking. To be a top dog you have to be able to create for others, not just yourself. He hasn’t had the freedom to experiment much so far, but has shown flashes of setting his teammates up. Since his usage will increase in 2022-23, hopefully we see more plays like this:
San Antonio entering the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes means Vassell will have a world of opportunity this season. He’ll be able to spread his wings completely, and I think he is going to take off and fly. Watch out for a breakout campaign from Devin Vassell in 2022-23.