If the New York Knicks select Devin Vassell in the 2020 NBA Draft, he would bring an intensity on defense that the team desperately needs.
In a draft class filled with 3-and-D wings, Vassell may be the cream of the crop. He certainly fits the bill of the modern NBA wing, standing 6-foot-7 with a 6’10” wingspan. Vassell knocked down just under 42 percent of his threes over two seasons in college. Let’s take a closer look at Vassell’s game and how he would fit with the Knicks’ roster.
Boost on Defense
The most touted part of Vassell’s game is his defense, and rightfully so. He checks all of the boxes as a prospect who can develop into a game-changing defensive chess piece. Vassell’s length and quickness projects as someone who can guard multiple positions in the NBA.
While he certainly has the size and shiftiness to become a great on-ball defender, it’s Vassell’s awareness and high motor that have him standing out among his peers.
Vassel isn’t just a player who can handle a difficult defensive assignment, he’s a guy who will bark out instructions to teammates. NBA analyst Kevin O’Connor, who has Vassell 7th on his big board, raves about Vassell’s defense:
“Elite Team defender who will immediately help any NBA rotation. He is hyper-alert on rotations, disrupts opponents’ actions with timely digs, and deters shooters from firing with fundamental closeouts… Never stops hustling. Even when a play seems over, he’ll fly out of nowhere for a chase-down block or last-second deflection.”
The Knicks badly need defenders. The team had one player rank within the league’s top 100 in defensive real plus/minus this past season, and that was Frank Ntilikina at 91st.
If the Knicks were to draft Vassell, it’s hard to imagine anyone on the current roster beating him out for the starting small forward spot. Having someone to effectively guard opposing wings is something the Knicks did not have last season.
Vassell’s alertness and persistent switching is a dream fit in Tom Thibodeau’s aggressive defense. His impact on the defensive side of the ball would be felt immediately.
Potential On Offense
What makes Vassell so attractive when picking at 8th overall is not just his defense, but his his floor on offense. Vassell has been an efficient catch-and-shoot player in college. His length and release point should give him no trouble being an effective shooter in the NBA.
Recently, a video surfaced showing Vassell taking jump shots with a much different catapult-like shooting form. The video sent draft analysts and fans into a panic.
However, we received some clarity on the video from Florida St. assistant coach Charlton Young, who talked to SNY about the video:
“Vassell was messing around at the end of a workout, shooting from about five steps behind the 3-point line… Because he’s shooting from so far back, he’s sling-shotting it from over his head. Because it’s way deep. It was a (mess around) half-court shot,” Young says. “He always had kind of a high release but he hasn’t changed his shot. He doesn’t bring it back that far. He has not changed his shot at all.”
The Knicks would obviously love to add a good perimeter shooter to their rotation. With Vassell, they may be getting a more prolific scorer than initially expected.
Draft analysts are tasked with sorting through the weeds and applying context to the prospects before a draft. Sometimes, the nature of the college game (a lot less isolation than the NBA) and head coaching can hold a player back from showing their full ability.
Some famous recent examples of this are Jayson Tatum at Duke and Donovan Mitchell at Louisville. Saying Vassell will become that level of player is an unfair comparison, but when watching his game, you can’t help but wonder if there is some untapped potential on offense.
Devin Vassell doesn’t jump out of the gym, but he gets to the rim using a combination of length and crafty footwork. He wasn’t asked to create a lot of offense at Florida State, but he showed more than a few flashes of technical scoring ability.
Vassell’s improvisation skills are impressive, he displays nice footwork on isolation plays. That’s something teams need in today’s NBA.
His decision making is also a plus. Vassell shot 49 percent from the field this past season. He makes good reads with the ball in his hands, something coach Thibodeau will appreciate.
Can Devin Vassell become a cornerstone player of the Knicks future? Maybe.
At the very least, the Knicks would be getting a highly competitive player who could help with two of the team’s biggest issues from last season: defense and perimeter shooting. Vassell would bring an exciting level of energy to the Garden that Knicks fans will love.