Devin Vassell displayed NBA-level potential as a “3-and-D” forward during his two seasons with the Florida State Seminoles.
If you are a Florida State basketball fan, you have had your eye on Devin Vassell.
The 20-year old forward, originally from Georgia and earning his stripes in Tallahassee, went from an unrated recruit to lottery-projected pick in two seasons.
Vassell went from an interesting prospect that could provide a skill on the outside of the Lottery to a surefire Lottery pick and one of the best shooting prospects in the entire Draft.
Unfortunately for Orlando Magic fans, Orlando doesn’t have an option to select in the lottery without making a trade to move up in the draft order. The Magic currently hold the 15th and 45th picks.
It is also unlikely the Magic’s first-round selection becomes an above-average player, regardless of who they ultimately select.
According to analysis by Roland Beech, the 15th pick has historically produced a 10-percent chance of selecting a “star” and a 20-percent chance of a “bust”, with a 65-percent chance of the talent landing somewhere in between. Beech’s sample is comprised of all first and second-round selection from the 1989-2008 drafts.
While these findings are not statistically significant, they do directionally point to an understanding that Magic fans conceptualize: This selection is unlikely to materialize into an impactful player.
Florida State Seminoles Basketball
But there is a slight probability that Vassell falls to Orlando and that he becomes the ultimate prize: A two-way showstopper.
Vassell seems like the ideal fit. He has all the skills the Magic are missing. And with such bleak prospects at No. 15, Vassell is the kind of player the Magic should be thinking about trading up to acquire.
Devin Vassell began his career in Tallahassee as a non-starter, receiving less than 20 minutes per game throughout the preseason and most of conference play.
By the end of his freshman season, he was awarded the Florida State Seminoles’ most-important bench minutes during the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament.
Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton is one of Vassell’s strongest advocates, praising not only his on-court talent but his temperament. According to Hamilton, whichever team is fortunate enough to select Vassell will receive a cerebral, humble, and hard-working player.
On the court, Vassell expanded his production with an increase in usage between his freshman and sophomore seasons — a good indication of a player’s overall ability to scale with more opportunity. Simultaneously increasing his scoring average and efficiency could point towards Vassell’s untapped potential.
There are concerns about his ability to handle physicality at the NBA level given his 6-foot-7, 195-pound frame. The counter-argument is there are recent examples of players — most recently New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram — making the transition to the NBA with a lean build.
Vassell has no history of injury at Florida State, receiving only one DNP with the Seminoles for undisclosed reasons. While no player is injury immune, this could serve as evidence that Vassell’s body is durable enough to withstand the grind of an eighty-two game season.
Vassell is getting a lot of attention for his shooting acumen. That is certainly a skill the Orlando Magic need more than anything else. But what has him shooting up draft boards is his overall game.
It is not just his shooting that matters.
Few prospect breakdowns begin with defense, but Devin Vassell is unlike other players his age. He has built his reputation on the defensive side of the ball.
With a close to 7-foot wingspan, Vassell allowed 0.5 points per isolation play last season, according to NBA.com’s draft profile.
When he received more minutes as a sophomore, Vassell also increased his traditional per-game defensive stats. He averaged nearly 2.5 “stocks” (steals and blocks) per 30 minutes last season.
And like other talented defenders, the box score does little to explain Vassell’s total impact. In any given game, he displays elite basketball IQ as a help defender.
Watch Vassell anticipate and disrupt multiple wrinkles during a single defensive possession:
The Stepien’s Spencer Pearlman catches many of the nuances in this clip that are not easy to spot in live-action. Vassell is adept at directing help-side defense and ensuring that rotations are made to “help the helper”.
What is not highlighted is his attention to detail at the start of the play, a sign of his ability to scout the opponent.
Watch again and you will see he taps his head repeatedly prior to Virginia Tech’s pseudo-horns alignment at the top of the key. This is Vassell signaling the play to his teammates. He knows the Hokies’ initial action before the possession has begun.
Vassell is also an incredible on-ball defender, often receiving the assignment to guard the opposing lead ballhandler full court.
His versatility speaks to the likelihood that he’ll be able to impact the game defensively at the next level. If you can make plays in a variety of game situations, at least one or more of those will translate as you make the leap.
While Devin Vassell’s impact offensively does not match his defensive influence, there are signs he will fit into the modern NBA game.
His offensive efficiency, particularly from outside, bolds well for his ability to stretch beyond the 22-foot line at the NBA level. As a sophomore, Vassell posted 51/41/72 shooting splits from two, three and the free-throw line, respectively.
His efficiency was also improved during the most important games of his sophomore season. He shot 45-percent on 3.8 3-point attempts per game in ACC play. While it is a small sample, it is yet another indicator that his shot could translate to NBA play.
But there are concerns with other facets of his offensive game.
Vassell’s handle certainly needs improvement, especially to ensure off-the-dribble shot creation. While he did improve in his second season, there were enough examples of him having to settle for tough shots because he wasn’t able to get to his spot.
While this is just one shot from a single action, it shows Vassell’s (#24) reluctance to attack the basket.
When he catches and slowly pushes towards the paint, you can tell he prefers to take one dribble over multiple to finish strong at the rim.
Here is another example of Vassell’s smooth stroke. He starts his attack with a nice in-and-out dribble to create separation, but falls back to a familiar tendency and takes one dribble into a tough pull-up.
While his touch on this shot is impressive, an inability to get a rhythm look points to a reliance on tough shot-making that will be even more arduous against the league’s best defenders.
Devin Vassell has all the intangibles that NBA coaches crave: coachability, dedication to defense, and humility. Steve Clifford and the rest of the organization would pinch themselves if he somehow fell outside of the lottery.
The Magic’s outside shooting struggles are well-documented, they shot 34-percent as a team last season. Vassell may not provide an immediate impact, but his ability to stretch the floor could earn him minutes as he matures on his rookie contract.
Vassell also certainly would fit perfectly into the defensive ethos Clifford and the Magic are trying to build. That is the best way for a young player and a shooter like Vassell to get minutes. He has already shown his attitude on defense.
If the Magic are fortunate enough to land Vassell, it would be a small win to celebrate in Orlando.