Devin Vassell Layup over Drew Eubanks

Devin Vassell Is Primed for More After Contract Extension With Spurs

Entering his fourth year in the association, San Antonio Spurs wing Devin Vassell agreed to a lucrative contract extension.

If you haven’t kept up with the Spurs consistently over the past few seasons, the number may be jarring to look at. First, when you put the numbers into context, it’s not nearly as much as it appears on the surface, descending over the course of the deal and under 20% of the salary cap four out of the five contracted seasons.

This is an incredibly valuable deal for the Spurs and Vassell.

By locking in Vassell just after his 23rd birthday, San Antonio removes any potential bidding process that could’ve opened up by letting this go to restricted free agency. You remove the potential for a player souring on your organization or relationship by not immediately committing to them longterm and trying to squeeze to the market price.

I would like to note; the notion of getting the bag secured and then not taking the next steps as a player is overplayed. The examples that show proof are louder than they are numerous. The notion also runs counter to anything Vassell has done as a player and his approach to the game and development.

Devin Vassell is on a star development track.

The kind of star he’s on the path to becoming is what I find most enticing, tracking to become one of the best off-ball complementary scorers and offensive weapons in the league. There are shades of Khris Middleton and Rip Hamilton within Vassell, perhaps the most akin to the latter in today’s game. No, he’s not running off of nine screens in 10 seconds to curl to a 1- footer, but with respect to athletic profile, the comparison is fruitful.

Vassell is a plus athlete, but not in the traditional bigger/faster/stronger sense; he’s wiry and long, but more of a two than a three standing at 6’5. He can get up, but what makes him such a tremendous athlete is his fluidity and ability to create space from that. He’s highly efficient in his movement, flowing off of screens with crispness, minimal space lost, which is paramount considering that screening actions are his primary mode of crafting space.

Within that, he excels at using exceptional lateral movement to get into his mid-range game. His long side-steps and strides blended with a crafty, herky jerky handle, expertly get him open in the in-between. There’s an arhythmic nature to his dribble drive where rather than a straight line, he’s prying East/West with his wide in and outs and moving his defender just enough to open lanes.

Vassell shot 38.7% from deep on seven attempts per game this past year, continuing to increase his aggression and volume from beyond the arc. His money was made his first two years as an off-ball scorer that opened the floor for others with his movement and shooting gravity, showing growth in how he attacked closeouts and started to run secondary actions. This past year, Vassell became a bonafide secondary playmaker and ballhandler for the Spurs.

He finished 10th in pick-and-roll efficiency amongst high volume handlers in 2022-23 (eight or more pick-and-rolls run per game) out of 68 players who qualified. The attention he draws from his outside game opened up the room for him to continue exploring his game off the dribble, parlaying in the clear expansion of his playmaking.

His passing was relatively basic, with some more advanced passes filtered in, but the passing is impactful. He’s able to utilize the two-man game to efficiently and effectively create offense for himself and his teammates.

41.2% of Vassell’s shots came from the mid-range (three feet to inside the three-point line), a very high volume and large portion of his shot diet. He’s a good not great shooter from the mid-range, but the kinds of shots he takes and makes, contested and off-the dribble, matter.

When he can attack with motion and get a half-step with his slitheriness, he excels. Leading the dance with his defender out of ball screens, Vassell is fantastic and at his most comfortable with his defender on his hip. His release point is high, he gets a ton of lift on his jump, and the lateral creation is a significant factor in his ability to get open.

The main negative attribution that’s been thrown Vassell’s way is “inefficient,” and when you pick apart his numbers, there’s truth to that, finishing a bit below league average true-shooting this past year. But, can we pull apart why those numbers drop?

His ability to play through contact and get stronger will be of immense importance to growth in his game, what the majority of his moments of inefficiency stem from.

As mentioned prior, his ability to dictate and lead the dance is an excellent part of his offensive repertoire; when the ability to dictate is taken away from him is when he can struggle, and most of that ties into strength.

If a screen isn’t set hard, little space is generated from it, and a defender can keep their hands on Vassell and ride out his drive to the rim, he runs into problems.

As much as his control and patience is key to coming off of screens and setting himself up, I’d argue that figuring out pacing (alongside growth in strength) is his biggest area for growth. Considering that that’s a very developable skill, that’s a good thing!

He can smother himself at times on drives and pass the ball too soon. Even if the pass ends up in assist, he has a tendency to drop the ball off before the defense fully commits to him, before the roller is in a great place to finish, or before the defense really considers him a threat.

Slowing down and finding a touch game on floaters and runners will be key for him becoming a legitimate three-level scorer. Adding counters like step throughs, faders, and a wider array of in-between footwork are essential for opening up more ways to keep attacking with his profile.

Continuing to improve his pacing and rim reads will make him a more impactful passer, more efficient scorer, and keep rounding out his game.

I also wonder if there’s some foul drawing to tap into, something he doesn’t excel at currently. He’s always working to fall away from contact; perhaps with some strength growth and more of an emphasis to play with contact rather than around it, he could work his way to the line with regularity.

He shows good vision passing out of double teams (and it’s a plus that he even draws that coverage at times), but when teams are tightly switching, this can also prove a problem. Vassell doesn’t have that strength or the lightning-quick first step.

Vassell is solid at attacking the switch pocket with pull-up jumpers, but it will be key to see how he and the Spurs counteract switching and work to improve against teams that have the length, size, and communication to do it effectively (cough, cough, Oklahoma City).

His defense regressed this past season to a degree, but I’d adamantly argue that advanced stats being thrown around oversell it due to the total team defense. He has film for years of plus defense, and I’d state he was closer to neutral this past season. The off-ball playmaking was still present, but he was more lackadaisical on the ball and getting over screens, one of the facets of his defensive skill set that’s most intriguing.

With more talent on the Spurs and a more likely primary offensive option on the roster, I expect Vassell to continue to mold into one of the finer wings in the game, and a complementary star alongside a generational prospect.

We're proud to have appeared in:

  • logo-SBC Americas logo
  • logo-News Channel 5 logo
  • logo-Mail Online logo
  • logo-AS logo
  • logo-Goal logo
  • logo-MSN logo
  • logo-Yahoo! logo