Previously, we took a look at Patrick Williams’ rookie season in Chicago, and Williams wasn’t the only lottery pick Leonard Hamilton produced in this past year’s NBA draft. With the 11th overall pick, Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs selected guard Devin Vassell. While Williams was afforded the opportunity to ease into his expectations, Vassell was given even more of a luxury. Chicago thrust Williams into a starting role immediately, but Vassell wasn’t tasked with shouldering that much of the Spurs’ burden. The traits that were most desirable coming out of college were his 3-and-D ability, and those translated nicely. His on-ball defense landed him in trouble at times, but that’s understandable, given that he’s never played this level of competition. Where he truly shined was his off-ball defense and natural instincts on D.
Vassell played in 62 of the Spurs’ 72 games, and was only asked to start in 7 of them. On the season, the rookie averaged 17 minutes per game, showing that Popovich still has a knack for not overworking guys when they’re not ready. His shooting tailed off at the end of the season, but he’s also never played this many games in a season. With no Summer League and a shortened conditioning period, this year’s rookie class faced a tough task in adjusting to the grind.
On the year, Vassell averaged 5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game. His shooting percentages don’t tell the full story, however, as he was shooting 40% from 3 until the last month and a half of the season. Overall, he shot 40.6% from the floor, including 34.7% from 3, and also added a commendable 84.3% from the charity stripe.
In his 62 games played, Devin scored in double-digits 11 times, with his career high of 18 coming in a win at Phoenix on April 17. He registered a positive +/- line in 29 of the 62 in games he played, and the team posted a record of 30-32 in those games.
There’s plenty of reason for Spurs fans and FSU fans alike to be excited about Vassell’s NBA future. He showed flashes and reliability in his debut season for San Antonio, and if there’s one thing we know about Gregg Popovich, it’s that he puts his players in the best position possible. After missing 6 games due to health and safety protocols, he returned and quickly found his rhythm. He’ll need to get more creative on offense in finding his shot, but that should come with a full off-season regiment. If you’re going to be a young player in the NBA who will need development, there’s no better mentor than the Hall of Famer Popovich.