SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio boosted its backcourt in the NBA draft Wednesday night, taking Florida State's Devin Vassell at No. 11 overall and Duke's Tre Jones in the second round at No. 41.
Vassell averaged 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals last season. A 6-foot-7 guard who spent two years with the Seminoles, he shot 41.7% on 3-pointers.
The 20-year-old Vassell is the youngest player on the Spurs’ roster and will play for the league’s oldest coach in 71-year-old Gregg Popovich. Vassell said he is eager to work with Popovich, who is entering his 25th season as San Antonio’s head coach.
“Playing for Pop is amazing and a great opportunity,” Vassell said. “It’s going to be great just learning and taking in all the knowledge he has.”
His selection was the highest San Antonio has drafted since taking Tim Duncan with the No. 1 pick in 1997.
Vassell is listed as a guard but played small forward while at Florida State. He said he can adapt to either position for the Spurs.
“I know that they develop a lot of great players,” Vassell said. “They take their time. I’m excited to work on my shot, really to work on all of my game.”
Vassell joins a roster that has transformed from one that relied heavily on veterans for two decades to a team that is counting on its young players to turn its fortunes around.
The Spurs have primarily had their draft picks spend their rookie seasons playing for and developing with the team’s G League affiliate in nearby Austin, but these are unusual times for the five-time NBA champions.
San Antonio failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997, the season prior to drafting Duncan. His selection ushered in a run of 22 straight post-season appearances for the Spurs that is tied with the 76ers’ franchise for the longest post-season run in league history.
Trade questions involving veterans DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge were rampant prior to the draft, but San Antonio did not complete any deals. The Spurs have made it clear that the team is centered around guards Derrick White, Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV and forward Keldon Johnson. The quartet led San Antonio to a 5-3 record during the restart, finishing 1 1/2 games behind Portland for eighth in the Western Conference.
Now the Spurs have added Vassell and Jones to that mix.
“In all of our drafts, we’re going to take the best player available, unless there are two players neck and neck and then maybe you look at position,” general manager Brian Wright said. “We think we added to our team on the court and in the locker room and in the community as well.”
A 6-foot-3 guard, Jones was named ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last season while averaging 6.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore with the Blue Devils.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity and very thankful for the San Antonio Spurs organization for believing in me,” Jones said. “I’m just excited to get going.”
Playing time could be minimal for the Spurs’ draft picks considering all the wings already on the roster, but Vassell said the competition can only help him.
“Playing against them is going to help me out a lot,” he said. “I’m going to learn a lot, playing against them in practice and learning from them. It will help me get better, and help me get on the floor.”
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