San Antonio Spurs re-commit to defense with 2020 NBA Draft picks

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By investing their coveted draft capital in FSU wing Devin Vassell and Duke guard Tre Jones, the San Antonio Spurs returned to their defensive roots.

Trade speculation ran rampant heading into the 2020 NBA Draft but ultimately, the San Antonio Spurs came away with an incredible haul featuring two fantastic players from the ACC. In selecting FSU wing Devin Vassell and Duke guard Tre Jones, general manager Brian Wright is proving a re-commitment to an essential trait to what we know as San Antonio Spurs basketball: Defense.

Of course, Vassell and Jones are both high-character individuals whose leadership skills on and off the court align with the organization. However, nabbing two players who love to play hard defense sent a clear message to San Antonio Spurs fans who were dumbfounded by the team’s halfhearted defensive effort in the 2019-20 season.

Now, they went out and nabbed two players with enough potential to become the best defenders in their draft class. Vassell’s devotion to defense is astounding, whether it be during individual, man-to-man sets or when playing within the flow of team defense. His athleticism and wide reach come into play when stepping into passing lanes and generating turnovers at a dazzling rate.

Vassell, who earned 2019-2020 All-ACC honors in his sophomore season, took strides in an expanded role as a sophomore. Unlike your traditional one-and-done, Vassell took the time to cover up his shortcomings and display a more well-rounded game in an extra season under FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton. During that sophomore campaign, Vassell averaged 1.4 steals and a block in 28.8 minutes per contest.

Florida State’s depth and versatility kept Vassell from playing in a lead role in the traditional sense, but that should prepare him for a San Antonio Spurs program that leans on unselfishness. Furthermore, Vassell’s consistency and attention to detail make him a fantastic chip in building toward a defense-oriented future in the Alamo City. The lanky wing finished with 1.8 times as many steals as turnovers, tallying 42 steals to only 23 turnovers in 863 total minutes.

Ideal for the modern NBA, Vassell is one of the many pieces of this young core who can pop once given the proper attention and diligence from the development staff. The same could be said of the 41st overall pick, Tre Jones, who easily could’ve been selected in the mid-to-late first round after dominating both sides of the ball at Duke.

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A hound on the perimeter, Jones sticks with his assignments like glue and pesters them until they settle for low-efficiency shots. He may not be the biggest guard at 6-foot-3, but his reach is long enough to perturb opposing ball-handlers and shooters on the perimeter. He’s a hustler who fights for loose balls and capitalizes on his opponent’s mistakes at every opportunity.

San Antonio already has solid guard defenders, but Jones has a chance to be the next great backup point guard who leads the bench unit. To be quite frank, Patty Mills isn’t getting any younger and Jones would make for an excellent fill-in, bolstering the team’s perimeter defense in the process.

The Spurs have a strong track record of taking players with a strong offensive baseline and great defensive upside. Generally, it’s harder to teach defense than offense since so much of it is based purely on effort and instinct. By picking these two players, Wright grounded the Spurs organization and reminded himself of the core values that inspired a 22-year playoff streak.

Next: Full 2020 NBA Draft Grades for the San Antonio Spurs

No matter how you felt before the draft, it’s hard not to feel confident with picks 11 and 41.

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