And the Thunder Select: Devin Vassell
With a bounty of draft picks from the 2019 Tradepocalypse summer, the Thunder will be scouting young prospects at the top of recruiting and draft classes once again. Daily Thunder will keep you informed on whether those players look like good targets for Oklahoma City.
|Projected draft class||2020|
|Projected draft age||19|
|Measurements||6’7″, 194 lbs.|
|Current Team||Florida State Seminoles|
Shades Of: Robert Covington, Mikal Bridges, Royce O’Neale, Donte DiVincenzo
The term “3&D player” might be a cliche of this point, but Devin Vassell is the epitome of the designation. Vassell is one of the best two-way players in college basketball and has the potential to become one of the most impactful players that come out of the 2020 NBA Draft.
After coming off the bench as a true freshman for the Seminoles, Vassell has elevated his game as a sophomore after Terrence Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele left for the NBA. Because of this, Vassell has firmly put his name into the lottery discussion for the upcoming draft. He’s all the way up at 10 on my personal big board.
Per Synergy, Vassell is in the 84th percentile for Catch-and-Shoot efficiency, and rates “Good-to”Excellent” on all playtypes he qualifies for. His advanced numbers are strong.
Coming in at 6’7, 194 lbs. with a 6’9 wingspan, Vassell has the physical tools to be a stout defender on the wing at the next level.
He’s seventh in the nation in gBPM (BPM 2.0) per Bart Torvik, and by all accounts has been one of the most impactful players in college this season.
Vassell is currently being mocked 21st overall by The Athletic, and has risen to 19th overall in ESPN‘s mock.
On the offensive end of the floor, Vassell has proven that he will make you pay if you leave him open. He’s a career 42 percent shooter from behind on the arc on over 145+ attempts, and has shown ability as a pull-up shooter in addition to excelling in catch-and-shoot situations.
Vassell is being assisted on 86.5 percent of his three-pointers, so these flashes of self-creation with pull-up jumpers or off-the-dribble jumpers are intriguing. The combination of his long arms and high release point on his jumper allows him to rise up over defenders with relative ease when getting his shot off.
Vassell has done well on spot-ups this season, ranking in the 77th percentile according to Synergy. His shot from the corner is money almost every time, yet defenders keep leaving him open to help on the drive. He hasn’t done much curling off of screens or shooting off of DHO’s, but I believe with that high release point and great accuracy, he is capable of shooting off of screens more than he has shown as Florida State.
One thing that could be a cause for concern is his volume. How good of a shooter is Vassell, really? Yes, he has that 42 percent mark from three and has shown the ability to shoot off movement as well, but he hasn’t attempted as many three-pointers as you would like in order to firmly project with confidence what he might shoot like at the next level. He’s also been a mediocre free throw shooter throughout his college career (74 FT% this season).
Judging by the foul shooting and relative lack of volume from distance, I’d project him to hover around 36-38 percent from the NBA arc. If Vassell’s shooting ends up being for real (40 percent on ~four attempts a game) and is an actual plus skill rather than a luxury, the team who drafted him is going to get a steal.
Vassell isn’t just a shooter on the offensive end. His basketball IQ on defense translates to the offensive side of the ball as well, which is evident by his smart and instinctual cutting ability. On cuts this season, he ranks in the 57th percentile, per Synergy.
Because of Vassell’s relatively average athleticism for the position as well as his focus on shooting threes (36 percent of his shots are three-pointers), his FTr of .252 is mediocre when comparing him to his fellow draftmates like Isaac Okoro or Anthony Edwards. But his athleticism doesn’t deter him from finishing well, as he’s shooting 71.4 percent at the rim and has been excellent in transition this season, ranking in the 94th percentile with 1.4 PPP in transition situations.
Vassell’s lack of burst and a handle completely hinder his ability in isolation. He’s only had nine isolation possessions this season, and has gone just 2-8 in those opportunities.
You don’t draft Vassell to put him in situations where he constantly has the ball in his hands and isolates one-on-one versus defenders. His offensive upside might be limited due to this, but he could play an offensive role in the NBA similar to what Robert Covington has throughout his career, taking a majority of his shots from distance.
With the modern NBA filled with versatile defenders and switch-heavy defenses, team defense and off-ball defense have left on-ball defense in the dust in terms of importance for evaluation. That’s where Vassell shines the brightest. Vassell is arguably the best off-ball defender in the country; he compiles steals and blocks at a stellar rate while playing for one of the top defensive teams in the country.
Vassell currently sports an excellent 2.9% steal rate and 4.8% block rate. He gets a lot of his blocks when coming over from the weak-side in help defense, or rotating to protect the rim. His basketball IQ on this side of the floor is outstanding, and he’s seemingly always in a position to contest a shot or get in the way of passing lanes.
Since 2000, only two players have accumulated a steal % over 2.5, a block % over 4.5, and a three-point percentage over 42% (minimum 80 attempts). Those players are Devin Vassell and Robert Covington.
This quick reaction to the entry pass is next-level stuff from Vassell. His great awareness and active hands allow him to react and strip the ball loose before the big man cleanly catches the ball.
These types of elite team defenders in the NBA give so much more freedom to the rest of the players on that end. Players like Vassell, Covington, and even pre-injury Andre Roberson can effectively play a “centerfield” role while roaming around off the ball, allowing guards who are prone to gambling like Russell Westbrook to take advantage of the handful of opportunities that come up during a game.
Vassell would fit in seamlessly in almost any lineup in the NBA because of his skills, and the Thunder specifically have been looking for a 3&D wing for what seems like forever. He could slide into the three-spot for OKC and be on the receiving end of plenty Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander assists to the corner and in transition.
And the Thunder select?
In a draft littered with “what-ifs” at the top, Vassell stands out as a high floor prospect with his combination of elite off-ball defense and ability to knock down shots from distance. Although he’s not much of a self-creator or facilitator, Vassell limits his mistakes on the court (evident by his 1.2 turnovers per 40 minutes) and should be a highly coveted role player in the NBA. At only 19 years old, Vassell has plenty of time to grow his offensive game in the future.