In these frustratingly uncertain of times, writing about something like basketball seems pretty trivial. We all have more questions than there seems to be answers for: questions related to health concerns, distancing concerns, political concerns, economic concerns - you name it. Questions about sports (as in “if/when they are even coming back in the summer, fall, or beyond) in our society are pretty low on the list of important or prioritized concerns at the moment.
But this is a professional basketball blog; I’m not here (because I’m nowhere near equipped nor qualified) to even attempt to try and tackle the unprecedented problems the world currently faces. We’re here for you at Orlando Pinstriped Post to try and provide a short-term getaway/distraction in any way that we can.
For me, that’s talking the NBA Draft. It goes without saying that the process leading up to the NBA Draft this year will be unlike any other players, agents, scouts, and league executives have ever experienced. I would assume the league passes on holding a pre-draft combine (*Editor’s note: The NBA officially announced on April 30th that they are postponing the NBA Draft Lottery and the NBA Draft combine). With travel basically coming to a halt, teams likely won’t have the benefit of bringing prospects in for workouts/interviews. Advanced scouting (through March) and film-study appear to be avenues teams will have to heavily rely upon with this draft.
I mean, at this point, we don’t even know if there will be an NBA Draft in June (could it possibly be postponed, re-scheduled?). There is still so much to be determined regarding the immediate future of the NBA (finishing this season or not, possible abbreviated playoffs, etc.). Without the information or guidance to answer many of these basketball related questions, I’m going to push forward with scouting reports of players in this class that could be available when the Magic pick in the first round of the ‘20 NBA Draft (although, we don’t know at this time when that pick will be made - I assume somewhere in the 15-16 range).
I will be putting these reports together over the next couple of months (and possibly longer), which include loose NBA comparisons for each prospect, film observations, talking points, a case for the Magic needing/drafting the prospect, and more. Up next in the series is an intriguing prospect who excels at both ends of the floor - Florida State wing Devin Vassell.
Possibly could happen comparisons: Danny Green, OG Anunoby (similar height/versatility/defensive impact, Anunoby is obviously 30-35 pounds heavier), Matisse Thybulle (that kind of potential defensive impact), Justin Holiday (with higher-upside, especially defensively)
Eye in the sky
-Very long/lean body that (when he fills out more) could potentially be a problem for opposing wings
-Possesses quick hands to go along with superior defensive instincts, very aware off-ball and help defender
-Strong on-ball defender, motor really turns on at the defensive end
-Comfortable (and productive) playing in transition, although not an elite run-and-jump athlete
-Smart basketball player, IQ shows-up on film: above-average rebounder for a wing, has the ability to keep the ball moving and make plays for others, averaged 0.8 TO’s in 29 MPG
-Very high release on his jump-shot, seems more comfortable in wide open/spot-up situations
-Not an adept finisher in traffic, his lack of bulk is a problem inside, tends to avoid contact rather than play through it (evidenced by low FTr)
Best films of the seasons
January 18th at Miami: 23 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks
February 1st at Virginia Tech: 27 points (8-10 FGA’s, 7-7 3PTA’s)
Video Credit: Tremendous Upside
Resume & By the numbers
- Played high school basketball in Suwanee, Georgia at Peachtree Ridge High School, was named regional Player of the Year his senior year by the Gwinnett Daily Post
- Named Second-Team All-ACC in 2019-20
- Ranked 2nd in the ACC in Offensive Rating, 3rd in ACC in Box Plus/Minus (‘19-’20)
- Recorded four or more stocks (combined steals/blocks) in a single game in nine contests (‘19-’20)
- Grabbed at least six rebounds (or more) in 13 of 30 games in ‘19-’20
- Shot at least 50% or higher from the field in 15 of 30 games in ‘19-’20
1) “3-and-D” prototype
Even though he played sparingly in Tallahassee in ‘18-’19, Vassell showed promise as an outside shooter during his freshmen season (41.9%, 1.9 3PTA’s per game). His role with the Seminoles obviously increased drastically this past season, but Vassell didn’t seem to lose any efficiency with his perimeter jump-shot whatsoever (41.5%, 3.5 3PTA’s per game). According to his Synergy Sports profile, Vassell was dangerous from pretty much every zone behind the three-point line in 2019-20. His highest volume of three-point attempts came from the left/right wings, where the 6-6 swing-man shot 40.8% on 49 attempts. Vassell shot 41% last season on left/right corner three-point field goals (39 attempts), and he went 8 for 18 (44%) on three-point attempts from the top of the key.
A lot of that damage came from “catch-and-shoot” situations where Vassell was playing off the ball. He seems comfortable spotting-up and stepping into his three-point attempts, but he’s probably not as NBA-ready when it comes to creating his own shot off the dribble. Like I mentioned above, Vassell has a very high-release point on his jump shot to go along with a very balanced and fluid lower-half. I’m confidently high on his potential to be an above-average floor-spacer at the NBA level.
Vassell’s identity as a basketball player has been molded on the defensive side of the floor. I think he has the highest motor of all the prospects in this class, and his length - combined with superior instincts - provides Vassell with the opportunity to continue to be an imposing defensive player at the next level. He can do it all defensively: moves his feet, has length to recover, effectively closes-out on shooters, quality help-defender, very disruptive in the passing lanes, etc. (evidenced by his 3.2 stocks - combined steals and blocks - per/40 minutes last season).
2) Elite role-player
There are so many different approaches NBA executives take and philosophies they try to abide by when it comes to the draft. Some front offices draft for need/fit, others like to bet on upside and “swing for the fences”; some value athleticism and positional size, others are routinely on the lookout for a certain skill-set. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to approaching the draft, it certainly varies from one organization to the next.
My point is, if a team is looking for a “home run” prospect that could develop into a perennial All-Star - or could just as equally bust out of the league by the end of his rookie contract, then Devin Vassell might not be their guy. Like most prospects in any draft class, the situation that Vassell gets drafted into will go along way in determining how quickly he reaches his NBA-ceiling. He’s not a player that should be counted on to create a whole lot of offense off the dribble (for himself, or for others). Even at the collegiate level, Vassell was a relatively low-usage guy that rarely had the ball in his hands. His game is all about disruption and havoc on the defensive-end, and efficiency (and IQ) on the offensive-end.
That kind of player is incredibly valuable in the NBA; a two-way guy that can impact the game in a variety of ways, who doesn’t dribble the air out of the ball or require a lot of shot attempts to stay engaged. I think Vassell’s floor is one of the highest in this class. He’s an NBA-level defender right now, and I trust his ability to shoot the basketball as well. Drafted into the right situation, where he can play alongside a ball-dominant offensive-threat, I think Vassell can develop into one of the NBA’s truly elite role players.
3) Basketball IQ
I find Vassell to be an incredibly aware player on the floor, well beyond where most prospects are at 19 to 20 years of age. Defensively, Vassell knows when to help post defenders, he utilizes the correct angles to disrupt plays and create deflections, and he effectively uses his length to dig down on movement (cutting players, pick-and-roll action, etc.).
Offensively, you’re talking about a guy that turned the ball over a total of 35 times in over 1,200 minutes (over his two-year collegiate career).
Vassell understands who he is as a basketball player. He’s not a physical player - he’s not a guy who gets to the free throw line with any kind of regularity. But he’s efficient within five feet (especially when it comes to finishing in transition), and he’s efficient from beyond the arc. He keeps the ball moving on offense without turning it over. And he’s a quality team defender.
Making a case for the Magic to draft Devin Vassell in the ‘20 NBA Draft
|With D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams set to hit free agency this summer,
would Vassell provide the Magic with needed depth at the point guard position?
With Evan Fournier's decision to possibly opt out of his contract and become an
unrestricted free agent this summer looming, would Vassell provide the Magic
with needed depth at a wing position?
|The Magic ranked 28th in the league in eFG% last season, 27th in scoring, 27th
in field goal percentage, 25th in three-point field goal percentage, and 24th in
Offensive Rating. Could Vassell potentially help the Magic in any of these areas?
|Does Vassell fit the Jeff Weltman/John Hammond archetype?||Yes|
Would selecting Vassell in the middle of the first round be considered a
Through the three drafts that Orlando’s current executive team has been in charge (led by Jeff Weltman: President of Basketball Operations, John Hammond: General Manager), the Magic have been painstakingly predictable with the type of players they’ve targeted. Weltman and Hammond value character first and foremost. They also seem to be infatuated with wingspan/length (Isaac, Iwundu, Bamba, Frazier Jr., Okeke) and defensive positional versatility (maybe not Bamba so much, but holds true for the other guys).
I put together a Magic-specific draft checklist above, and drafting Devin Vassell would help Orlando address a few areas of need. First of all, the Magic will likely need to bring in a point guard (or two) in the off-season due to the fact that both of their current back-up point guards will be free agents at the conclusion of this season. The organization can address this probable need through the draft, or possibly through free agency (mid-level exception). Secondly, the Magic could find themselves a little thin on the wing if potential free agent Evan Fournier decides to opt out of the final year of his current contract.
Vassell could provide the Magic with insurance if Fournier were to opt out of his deal. Even with Fournier, Orlando was one of the least efficient shooting teams in the NBA. The organization is starved for shooting/scoring threats who can surround Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, and Mohamed Bamba over the next half decade or so.
Additionally, Vassell fits the Weltman/Hammond model as a prospect; he could potentially offer the organization a ton of defensive versatility, value, and length. The organization tends to gamble on players’ potential upside, whereas Vassell (for me) represents a prospect with a higher floor (and an already developed elite skill: shooting) than Orlando usually bets on. But still, I like the idea of Vassell paired long-term in the back-court alongside Fultz.
The only question that remains is, will he still be available by the time the Magic pick? As of May 15th, ESPN currently ranks Vassell as the 16th “best player available” on their board. Kevin O’Connor (The Ringer) lists the Florida State wing sixth on his big board (released April 15th), and Sam Vecenie (The Athletic) has Vassell coming off the board in the lottery (11th pick) in his latest Mock Draft (released May 1st).
I think Vassell represents the perfect storm of both the kind of player Orlando’s management group covets, as well as the kind of two-way player that could really add to what the Magic already have. I believe he’s probably at the very top of Orlando’s “board”, but like I said - will he still be there for the Magic to select?
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.
You can also find his scouting reports of Kira Lewis Jr., R.J. Hampton, and Aaron Nesmith here.