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Know the Prospect: Devin Vassell

Would he make sense for the Knicks if they don’t make a jump in the lottery?

Florida State v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The following article is from new contributor @blames_dolan.

The current New York Knicks are a far cry from the 2012-13 team that set NBA records for three-pointers made and attempted in a single season. They were 30th in three-pointers made and attempted, and finished the season with only one player who shot above the league average of 35.8% from three in Damyean Dotson (Bobby Portis shot exactly average.)

Keeping up with the modern NBA and surrounding RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson with floor spacers should be a top priority for the Knicks this off-season, and they may not need to look much further than Florida State’s Devin Vassell in the draft.

The 6’6” wing’s combination of outside shooting and perimeter defense is the best of any player in the draft. A true “3 and D” wing, Vassell would be the perfect complement to Barrett on the wing, who was surrounded with the worst spacing in the NBA last season. RJ having the same issues at Duke, as the team ranked 327th in 3-point percentage during his freshman season, we have yet to see him on a team with the spacing to allow him to maximize his game.

But in what range should the Knicks seriously consider drafting Vassell? With the Knicks having a greater than 50% chance to be picking 7th or 8th heading into Thursday night’s Draft Lottery, should Vassell be in consideration if they don’t make a jump? Here is the case for Vassell.

Safe Pick in a Weak Draft

In a draft filled with uncertainty at the top, Vassell has one of the highest floors in the entire draft, given his ability to immediately contribute as a 3-point shooter and wing defender. After tripling his playing time his sophomore season, Vassell still has plenty of room to continue to improve, as he is only 20 years old, making him fairly young for a second-year player.

For the Knicks, making the safe pick might be the preferred route for a team that has been burned by drafting projects, with the 2018 Draft being the prime example. Villanova’s Mikal Bridges projected similarly to Vassell as a near-certainty to at least be an NBA contributor given his two-way potential and outside shooting. After originally being locked in on Bridges, which has been previously reported, the Knicks opted to select an 18-year-old project in Kevin Knox instead, a player with a much lower floor but higher ceiling. The franchise likely regrets not trusting their first instinct on drafting Bridges, especially now that he looks like one of the NBA’s premier wing defenders for an up-and-coming Suns team.

Fills an Immediate Need

Not only can Vasssell make a day one impact, but he also fills a critical need for the Knicks. Have I mentioned yet that they need to add more outside shooters? Vassell certainly fits the bill, as he shot 41.5% last season on 3.5 attempts from beyond the arc.

As stated earlier, Vassell could fit in seamlessly on the wing next to RJ. With Vassell as the 2-guard, that would bump RJ up to small forward, a position where he only played 27% of his minutes last season according to Basketball-Reference. For RJ, this might be his more natural position in an NBA that is leaning more heavily towards smaller and faster lineups.

Vassell would also give the team a much-needed floor spacer in the backcourt. Although the Knicks’ starting point guard for 2020-21 very likely might not be on the current roster, the incumbents have struggled mightily as outside shooters, with Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr. averaging a combined 28.4% from three. Even if Ntilikina is the only returning point guard next season (Ntilikina Hive stand up!), Vassell is a perfect plug-and-play guard next to him or any other point guard in the backcourt given his proficiency to play off the ball and space the floor.

While all Knicks fans are hoping for a jump into the top-5 to select the point guard of the future, Vassell should be in serious consideration if both LaMelo Ball and Killian Hayes are off the board. Especially considering the major question marks of other lottery projected players like Cole Anthony, and poor positional fits next to Mitchell Robinson such as James Wiseman and Onyeka Okongwu. Sometimes the safest pick is also the smartest.