San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Devin Vassell will undergo left knee surgery. He’s expected to miss an unknown amount of time after sustaining the injury earlier in the season.
Vassell wanted to postpone surgery until the off-season, but the pain and swelling were too much to handle. He recently missed eight games with left knee soreness. Resting didn’t alleviate the pain, so Vassell and the Spurs decided that surgery was the best route. It would preserve his long-term health, but the Spurs will lose one of their top playmakers.
Vassell is the Spurs’ second-best scorer, averaging 19.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He’s also the Spurs’ top long-range bomber, averaging 40.4% from 3-point range. He benefited from a major uptick in scoring from last season after the Spurs traded Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks.
Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford are the next two men up in the rotation as backup shooting guards. Richardson averages 10.6 points per game and shoots 35.6% from 3-point range. Langford (6.6 ppg) struggles from downtown, shooting only 25.8% per game. He’ll get a chance to snap out of his shooting funk with more consistent playing time.
Vassell Unknown Out of San Antonio
The Spurs selected Vassell, a former Florida State standout, with the #11 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He saw limited action as a rookie in 2020-21 while averaging 5.5 points per game. It took most of the season before he earned the trust and confidence of head coach Gregg Popovich.
Vassell took 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 earned a full-time starting job with a career-best 31.3 minutes of playing time per game. His scoring average also made another big leap from 12.5 ppg to 19.4 ppg.
The Spurs lost a legit All-Star when the Hawks acquired Murray in an off-season 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 happens to top players on losing teams in small media markets. They’d get way more attention and hype from the media if they played in the Northeast or in California.
Spurs Ranked #14 (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’re only 6.5 games out of 10th place and a potential spot in the Play-In Tournament. At this point, the Spurs look like they’ll qualify for the NBA Draft Lottery as one of the worst teams in the league this season.
The Spurs are +2200 odds to participate in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament, according to a prop bet by DraftKings. They’re tied with the Rockets as the long shots on the board.
The Southwest Division has three strong teams and two awful squads. 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 long-shot odds to win the Southwest at +10000 odds.
Smells Like French Teen Spirit
Popovich, the Spurs’ head coach and longest-tenured head coach in the NBA, passed Don Nelson last season to become the head coach with the most wins in NBA history. There was rampant speculation that Popovich would retire at the end of last season but he continues to prowl the sidelines.
Popovich won five NBA championships with the Spurs, including four titles between 199 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 since then. But the Spurs and Popovich are gambling on the upcoming draft lottery.
Victor Wembanyama from France is a rare generational talent and considered the best big-man prospect in nearly 20 years. He’s the most coveted teenager since LeBron James made the leap 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 multiple championships in the late 2020s and early 2030s. The three worst teams in the NBA have a 14% chance of winning the #1 pick in the draft lottery. In the Spurs’ case, they could secure the draft rights to the second coming of Duncan if they win the lottery.
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