Immediately following another NBA draft lottery result, the New York Knicks were linked to Florida State wing player Devin Vassell.
Florida State wing Devin Vassell falls into the highly coveted archetype of NBA draft prospects known as 3-and-D wings. Every team needs one — especially the New York Knicks. The Knicks have needed a 3-and-D wing prospect since before they passed on Mikal Bridges in 2018. Taking Vassell could make up for that.
Fortunately, the organization appears to recognize the need for a player like Vassell. According to SNY’s Ian Begley, Vassell already has some fans at Madison Square Garden. Vassell played two years of college ball and just turned 20 years old. He improved dramatically from his freshman to sophomore year in every major statistical category.
As a freshman, he barely averaged 10 minutes per game, but this season he led the team in points and rebounds. Oh, and if you’re wondering whether or not Vassell is a winning player: Florida State held a record of 26-5 when the season was suspended. They won the ACC regular season and were gearing up for a conference tournament run before March Madness.
But let’s start with his defense. Every conversation about Vassell rightfully starts with his elite defense. The hard work that Vassell put in between his freshman and sophomore seasons to make himself a lottery pick shows up on the defensive end. He might be a lottery pick, but Vassell goes after a loose ball like a walk-on on Senior night.
At 6’7″ with a 6’10” wingspan, Vassell is one of the best defensive players in the draft. He’s lauded for his ability to defend both on and off the ball. Vassell is a rare prospect in that his effort on the defensive end doesn’t waver regardless of if his man has the ball or not.
Even when he’s off the ball, Vassell remains active and in constant communication with his teammates. He’s seemingly always aware of the other team’s actions. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor speaks similarly about Vassell here, even joking that he must have eyes in the back of his head to make the plays he does.
Vassell’s length allows him to disrupt passing lanes and cover a lot of ground as a help defender. One on one, he can defend guards and wings, although his 194 lb frame prevents him from covering bigs. Vassell will need to get stronger to reach his full potential as a defender, but he’s still one of the best one on one defenders in the class allowing just 0.50 points per isolation possession — 81st percentile.
But Vassell can do more than defend. As you probably guessed, the kid can shoot. Vassell shot 41.7 percent from 3-point range in his two collegiate seasons. This season, he was 41.5 percent on 3.5 attempts per game.
Vassell could fuel a high-powered New York Knicks offense
The first thing that jumps out at you is that Vassell only attempted 3.5 shots per game from downtown. That’s not a very high number for a prospect like him. He actually attempted more two-point jumpers than 3-pointers, per Hoop-Math. So, Vassell’s proven he can make shots, but only on a low volume, so he probably shouldn’t be coming into the league bombing triples from all over the court.
For now, most of Vassell’s offense will come when he’s playing off the ball. He’s a threat in the half-court and in transition. Vassell ranked in the 94th percentile of efficiency on transition possessions and the 87th percentile on catch and shoot jump shots in the half-court, per Synergy Sports.
The hope is that Vassell can be a floor spacer for RJ Barrett. Just the tiniest bit of space would be nice. We all know Barrett could use it.
We don’t know what the plan is yet for the Knicks on draft night, but we can reasonably assume that Vassell is a prospect they will consider. The consensus is that new head coach Tom Thibodeau would be a fan of Vassell being the pick. He’s already inheriting stud defenders Mitchell Robinson and Frank Ntilikina.
Still, the Knicks were 28th in personal fouls and 26th in opponent free throws per field goal attempt. You would think Thibodeau would want to add as many talented, smart, defensive-minded players as he can to change the bad habits instilled by the previous staff. If that’s the case, Vassell fits the bill in the NBA draft for the New York Knicks.