The New York Knicks should select Florida State wing Devin Vassell with the eighth pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Defense and shooting are the hallmarks of Vassell’s game.
He’s a superb on-ball and perimeter defender, partially generated by his near-seven-foot wingspan. On the other end of the floor, Vassell has a lengthy, cockback jump shot that comes with range and efficiency which could help the Knicks. While superficially jarring, Vassell’s shooting form allows him to arc jump shots over defenders of all sizes.
The two-year player averaged 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and one block per game while shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the arc in his sophomore season at Florida State. His skill set is perfect for Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation, specifically his young pillars, RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson.
Barrett, the third pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, had a mediocre season from a production standpoint, averaging 14.3 points per game on a rebuilding Knicks team. At the same time, he flashed an ability to be an offensive mainstay, was a respectable defender, and was one of the team’s leading catalysts on both ends of the floor.
Robinson still doesn’t have extensive experience as the Knicks’ starting center, a byproduct of an early-season injury and him getting into foul trouble. That said, the big man is uber-talented and a likely shoo-in to start at center next season. He’s money on alley-oops, denies shots at a high level, and was finishing with more conviction in the paint as the 2020 regular season came to a halt.
Moving forward, Barrett will likely be utilized in more isolation sets and have the ball in his hands earlier in the shot clock. The Knicks will also be running more plays to get Robinson easy buckets, perhaps in the form of more pick-and-rolls. What complements an isolation wing and an inside big man? A “three-and-d” wing.
Vassell’s outside shooting stretches the floor for Barrett to play in isolation for the Knicks. It gets players out of the paint, giving Robinson more space to roam around.
The versatile wing has upside for the Knicks. While he seldom scored off the dribble in college, his jumper and sheer athleticism offer potential. Vassell won’t be the number one or two source of offense in his rookie season. Therefore, he can play to his strengths and, in time, more so pump fake from distance and stick mid-range jump shots off the dribble. Furthermore, Vassell’s speed and hops allow him to finish at the rim with tenacity.
Vassell’s skill set should translate into early NBA production with the Knicks. He’ll be in a similar role to the one he held down in head coach Leonard Hamilton’s offense, playing off the ball and making an impact out on the perimeter on both ends.
The 20-year-old brings a specific skill set to the table that the Knicks don’t possess.
Barrett and Robinson have few, if any, similarities to Vassell; over his first two seasons in the NBA, Kevin Knox has been a spot-up shooter or athletic finisher with a somewhat improving but still lacking defensive game; Frank Ntilikina is a defensive specialist who moves the ball well; Julius Randle is a primary scorer, inside and out.
It’s no secret that Thibodeau is a defensive-minded coach who’s going to want to put his stamp on the Knicks young core. President Leon Rose has two pressing issues to attend to: getting another go-to isolation scorer and complementing Barrett and Robinson. Vassell fits the bill for the latter.
Player development is pivotal in any NBA rebuild, a department which Thibodeau and some of his Knicks assistants have a reputable track record with. Vassell isn’t a finished product. Sometimes a player can be reliable but underwhelming from a production standpoint in college. Then they go to the NBA, fit in a team’s offense, and develop into a great player.
Maybe Vassell can be the next example of that model under Thibodeau with the Knicks? Sometimes fit creates the more impactful player.
The Knicks have two other selections in Wednesday’s NBA Draft (27 and 38). Attempting to predict selections past the lottery and in the later portions of the NBA Draft is like trying to forecast whether you’ll make a light four blocks down the road in Manhattan: you think you have a gauge on what will happen until a pedestrian ambushes your car.
Attempting to avoid the pedestrian and match need with value, the Knicks could opt for an efficient guard with their second first rounder like Oregon’s Payton Pritchard or Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickley.
Another option for New York is loading up on wings and forwards, choosing from “three-and-d” players and scorers like Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard, Louisville’s Jordan Nwora, Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe, and Washington State’s CJ Elleby with their later selections. Maybe they roll the dice on Jay Scrubb?
Devin Vassell is a justifiable number eight pick in the draft, especially considering the difficulty that comes with separating prospects from each other this year, and would be a phenomenal fit with the New York Knicks.