Spurs' $146 million man is quietly proving his value despite the losses piling up

Devin Vassell, Victor Wembanyama
Devin Vassell, Victor Wembanyama / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

As the San Antonio Spurs struggle through their worst season in franchise history, the team's biggest priorities have likely shifted in a big way. They are more concerned with ensuring that the number one overall pick, Victor Wembanyama, makes it through the year healthy, and seeing which of his teammates have what it takes to be a part of the team's future.

Thus far, there haven't been many players who have stepped up but Devin Vassell has. Vassell was recently signed to an unprecedented five-year rookie extension, despite not meeting the criteria for a rookie max, showing that the Spurs are confident that he can develop into an elite player.

With Vassell under contract for another five seasons after this year, the hope was that he would show significant improvement. While the team has struggled, he has indeed taken a step forward.

Devin Vassell is quietly proving his value for the Spurs.

Vassell has evolved into a high-volume 3-point shooter, connecting on 36.4% of his 6.8 3-point attempts per game, resulting in him scoring 17.9 points on average. Not only that but he has also emerged as an effective scorer inside the arc, shooting a blistering 45.4% on shots between 11 and 23 feet. He does that by using ball screens to gain separation to knock down pull-ups and utilizing a devasting step-back to get his shot off when his defender is crowding him.

His aggression in shooting from outside and off pull-ups has resulted in him taking some extremely difficult shots, which would normally doom a player's efficiency but he has proven far more adept at making those shots. Being a tough-shot maker is obviously useful, especially in clutch situations and in the playoffs—whenever the Spurs make it back to the playoffs.

Still, he'll have to figure out ways to get higher percentage shots if he wants to become an elite scorer in the NBA. That could come from him figuring out how to draw more free throws since he draws just 2.9 attempts per game. Part of that is due to his reliance on shooting threes and pullups but mixing in more drives would not only get him higher percentage shots at the rim but also more trips to the line.

Some of that will come as Vassell develops more chemistry as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll with Victor Wembanyama. Vassell is often more focused on shooting than setting up Wemby but he has been far better of late, averaging an impressive 5.6 assists over his last five games.

That is far better than the 3.5 assists he's averaging on the season and a sign that he has begun to turn a corner as a playmaker. As he and the rest of the Spurs improve as passers, Wembanyama will become increasingly difficult to guard, thus also making it easier for Vassell to score.

Overall, despite his team's struggles, Vassell has shown plenty of development. With the salary cap expected to increase significantly in the near future, the Spurs were smart to lock him up for the long term, and based on his career trajectory, he could quickly prove to be a bargain.