Published on: January 6, 2023, 02:44 am.
Last update: January 6, 2023, 03:22.
San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Devin Vassell will undergo surgery on his left knee. He expects to miss one unknown period of time after suffering the injury early in the season.
Vassell wanted to put off surgery until the offseason, but the pain and swelling were too much to bear. He recently missed eight games with left knee soreness. Rest didn’t ease the pain, so Vassell and the Spurs decided surgery was the best course of action. It would keep him healthy long-term, but the Spurs will lose one of their best players.
Vassell is the Spurs’ second-leading scorer, averaging 19.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He’s also the Spurs’ best long-range shooter, averaging 40.4 percent from 3-point range. He got a major boost in scoring last season after the Spurs traded Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks.
Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford are the next two men in the rotation as backup guards. Richardson is averaging 10.6 points per game and shooting 35.6 percent from 3-point range. Langford (6.6 ppg) struggles from downtown, shooting just 25.8 percent per game. He’ll have a chance to break out of his shooting funk with more consistent playing time.
Vassell Unknown from San Antonio
The Spurs selected Vassell, a former Florida State standout, with the 11th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He saw limited action as a rookie in 2020-21 while averaging 5.5 points per match. It took most of the season to earn head coach Gregg Popovich’s trust.
Vassell made a big leap during his second season in the NBA. He averaged 12.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He also started 23 games.
With Murray gone this season, Vassell has earned a full-time starting job with a career-best 31.3 minutes of playing time per game. His scoring average also took another big jump from 12.5 points to 19.4 points.
The Spurs lost a legitimate All-Star when the Hawks acquired Murray in an offseason trade. Without Murray, the Spurs lack star power unlike their counterparts in the Western Conference. Aside from leading scorer Keldon Johnson and possibly center Jakob Poeltl – who is “meme famous” with an NBA-themed version of Wordle named after him — the average fan would be hard-pressed to name more than three members of the Spurs.
Johnson and Vassell play in obscurity in San Antonio. That’s what happens to top players on losing teams in small media markets. He would get a lot more attention and hype from the media if he played in the Northeast or California.
Spurs ranked 14th (out of 15)
With a 12-26 record, the San Antonio Spurs are one of the four worst teams in the NBA and have the second worst record in the Western Conference. Only the Houston Rockets (10-29) have fewer wins than the Spurs in their conference.
The Spurs trail the top-seeded Denver Nuggets by 13 games. They are just 6.5 games out of 10th place and a potential spot in the Play-In Tournament. Right now, the Spurs look like they will enter the NBA Draft Lottery as one of the worst teams in the league this season.
The Spurs are +2,200 odds to make the Western Conference Play-In Tournament, according to a DraftKings prop bet. They’re tied with the Rockets as long shots off the board.
The Southwest Division has three strong teams and two terrible teams. The Memphis Grizzlies (-280), New Orleans Pelicans (+400) and Dallas Mavericks (+550) are in a three-way battle for first place in the division. The Houston Rockets and Spurs are ridiculous odds to win the Southwest at +10000 odds.
Smells like French teen spirit
Popovich, the Spurs’ head coach and the NBA’s longest-tenured head coach, passed Don Nelson last season to become the winningest head coach in NBA history. There was widespread speculation that Popovich would retire at the end of last season, but he continues to be on the sidelines.
Popovich won five NBA championships with the Spurs, including four titles between 1999 and 2007. He last won a title in 2014 with young forward Kawhi Leonard and center Tim Duncan in the twilight of his career. It’s been lean times in San Antonio ever since. But the Spurs and Popovich are gambling on the upcoming draft lottery.
France’s Victor Wembanyama is a rare generational talent and considered the best prospect of the last 20 years. He’s the most coveted teenager since LeBron James made the jump from high school to the NBA. Wembanyama has drawn numerous comparisons to Duncan, who won five titles with Popovich and the Spurs.
The Spurs are willing to look bad this season in hopes of securing a potential superstar who could help them win more championships in the late 2020s and early 2030s. The three worst teams in the NBA have a chance to 14% to win the #1 pick in the draft lottery. In the case of the Spurs, they could secure the draft rights to the second coming of Duncan if they win the lottery.