Swept away, by the Victor Wembanyama tornado of hype, is San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Devin Vassell, a fourth-year player who is currently putting up absurd efficiency numbers.
The 23-year-old is averaging 17.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game, which on the surface might seem slightly pedestrian. However, when dig just slightly deeper, you quickly come to realize how crucial he’s been for the Spurs this season.
Vassell is knocking down almost 50% of his overall shots, and a ridiculously effective 43.1% on 5.7 three-point attempts per night. What’s even more impressive is how he’s been knocking them down.
Vassell isn’t one to shy away from an opportunity. If he sees just a slither of daylight, he’ll pull the trigger on a jumper, even if his primary defender is closing in fast.
A whopping six attempts of his, per night, are considered “tight”, meaning the closest defender is within 2-4 feet from him as he shoots. Given that he’s averaging 12.6 attempts, that’s nearly half of his shots that are tightly contested.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem to deter him.
Vassell is hitting 50% on all of his tightly guarded shots, including 42.1% of his three-pointers. He’s been San Antonio’s most dynamic offensive perimeter player, and arguably their best offensive performer during the season to date.
He’s accomplished this despite playing with floor spacing that’s, at best, unreliable, and at worst a major liability. Vassell has had to create many of his own looks, and has needed to do so as the Spurs are experimenting with Jeremy Sochan at the point guard position – an experiment that’s currently forcing several Spurs players into having create for themselves, which hasn’t panned out.
It might seem weird to focus on a player, who’s playing for a team that just lost six straight games, and have done so collectively by 117 points over that span. But Vassell is helping the Spurs by proving to them that he is indeed a mainstay.
Vassell signed an extension this summer worth $146 million, and his play seemed to have confirmed that the Spurs did the right thing, even if the team is currently going through one of their roughest stretches in years.
Furthermore, Vassell solidified himself as a player who should be a long-term cornerstone next to Wembanyama, who the team after all is building around. Vassell’s ability to spot up, and create off the bounce, gives the teenage Frenchman a reliable scoring threat at the off-guard spot, which he’s assuredly going to need as he develops, and ages into the role of an international superstar.
As for Vassell, is stardom in the cards?
It can’t be ruled out. He might not ever become an MVP candidate or an steady presence on the league’s All-NBA teams, but his efficiency, scoring prowess, and defensive upside does lend a thought to him potentially playing in All-Star game or two down the line, particularly after the Spurs have started to improve.
Finally, doing what Vassell is doing now, without a real point guard, is worth remembering. When the Spurs find a reliable playmaker, and Wembanyama turns into the franchise players he’s bound to become, Vassell is going to get easier shots within the flow of the offense. Seeing how deadly he is as a player defenses collapse on, the idea of him being open more often than not, should scare opponents in the coming years.
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