Detroit Pistons draft preview: Devin Vassell among rookies most likely to hit the ground running

Devin Vassell
Florida State’s Devin Vassell should be one of the rookies most ready to play for his shooting and defensive versatility
Harry How/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

History says it’s a virtual certainty a future All-Star, perhaps even a future MVP, will be available when the Pistons go on the clock to make the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

It’s too early to judge the 2018 and ’19 drafts – though early returns suggest form will hold as young players like Tyler Herro (13th pick in 2019) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11th pick in ’18) already appear on an All-Star track – but go back a decade and every draft has produced players who either already are or will be multi-time All-Stars or even MVP winners who were taken with the seventh pick or beyond.

The 2017 draft has already produced All-Stars in Donovan Mitchell (13th) and Bam Adebayo (14th). Jamal Murray, a breakout star of the NBA’s Orlando bubble, was the seventh pick in 2016. Devin Booker was the 13th pick in 2015 and Nikola Jokic went 41st in 2014.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was the 15th pick in 2013 and three-time All-Star – and three-time NBA champion – Draymond Green was the 35th pick in 2012. His Golden State teammate, Klay Thompson, was the 11th pick in 2011 when two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard went 15th. Paul George was the 10th pick in 2010 and two-time MVP Steph Curry was the seventh pick in 2009.

So when Dwane Casey said in early October, after months of digesting video of top prospects, he was confident the Pistons would get a foundational piece at the seventh pick, he had history – and faith in the eye of new general manager Troy Weaver – in his corner.

Pistons.com concludes its profiles of 12 potential Pistons picks at No. 7 in Wednesday’s draft with a look at Florida State wing Devin Vassell.

FIRST-ROUND CANDIDATE: DEVIN VASSELL

ID CARD: 6-foot-6 wing, Florida State, 20 years old

DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 11th by ESPN.com, 11th by The Athletic, 10th by SI.com

SCOUTS LOVE: For a team looking to get some immediate help from a draft that precedes the start of the regular season by barely a month, Vassell deserves a long look. He’s a classic 3-and-D player who shot better than 41 percent from the 3-point arc in each of his two seasons as Florida State, he’s athletic if not in an elite class of athlete and he’s rangy with a reported 6-foot-10 wingspan. Vassell, relatively young for a college sophomore as he only turned 20 in August, also tracks as a player with significant growth potential. He went from playing 11 minutes a game as a Florida State freshman to 29 minutes a game as a sophomore and maintained or improved all his key metrics on a per-40 minute basis. Vassell projects as a versatile wing defender with promising rebounding (5.1 per game), steals (1.4) and blocks (1.0) numbers. While not a primary ballhandler, Vassell – second on Florida State in minutes played and leader in scoring and rebounding for a 26-5 team that finished first in the ACC at 16-4 – had it in his hands often enough to lend meaning to his low turnover rate (1.0 per game and on a minuscule 6.6 percent of his possessions), showing good judgment and potential as a pick-and-roll ballhandler as he matures.

SCOUTS WONDER: While Vassell is acknowledged as someone who should be among the most ready to contribute as an NBA rookie, the question of how much impact he can have at his peak could dissuade teams picking in the middle of the lottery from considering him as strongly as prospects viewed as having higher ceilings. Vassell isn’t an explosive wing athlete, which might limit his versatility to defend at either end of the spectrum – questions about his capacity to stay in front of top point guards or to avoid being overwhelmed by bigger wings. While his shooting accuracy and consistency from the college 3-point arc are reflected in his career numbers, there are some concerns about his range and ability to be an efficient NBA 3-point shooter from above the break. Vassell’s ability to create off the dribble is in question, another factor in the case for a limited upside.

NUMBER TO NOTE: .361 – That was Vassell’s 3-point attempt rate, meaning 36.1 percent of his shot attempts as a Florida State sophomore came from the arc, significant mostly because of the decline it represented from his freshman mark of 52.1 percent. In context, it indicates that Vassell became a more diverse scoring threat as he matured and his role changed to include more ballhandling responsibility. The signs are there that Vassell could have a little more to offer than the classic 3-and-D profile.

MONEY QUOTE: “Whoever gets him will get a hell of a player because he is a great shooter, he loves to play defense, he’s coachable. He has all those attributes and he’ll make good contributions to whoever drafts him.” – Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton to Empire Sports Media in September 2020

BOTTOM LINE: The Pistons, picking seventh, aren’t likely to feel any discernible pressure to pick a rookie ready to play immediately. Troy Weaver’s track record in Oklahoma City and everything he’s said since being hired as general manager of the Pistons in June would point to using the draft to invest in a player who with rigorous development can be grown into an impact player. The likeliest avenue for Vassell to be taken by the Pistons on draft night, perhaps, would be for them to trade down a few spots, pocketing another valuable asset, and then going with a player who might be as sure a bet to be in an NBA rotation two or three years from now as anyone. Weaver has said everything, including a trade down, is on the table. If that happens, Vassell might be the player who winds up hearing his name called for the Pistons.

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