Sport

With rare lottery pick, Spurs get nice player (Devin Vassell) but probably don’t change their trajectory

The Spurs have either made the playoffs or drafted a multi-time All-Star in all 43 of their prior seasons.

After missing the 2020 postseason, San Antonio has the pressure on with No. 11 pick Devin Vassell.

The Spurs’ highest-drafted player since Tim Duncan, Vassell even ranked No. 4 on my board. But that’s in a down draft, and Vassell carries little star potential. It’d be asking a lot for him to join Duncan, Sean Elliott, David Robinson and Alvin Robertson as multi-time All-Stars.

A reasonable goal: Vassell becomes San Antonio’s first All-Rookie teamer since Kawhi Leonard in 2012 then develops into a solid starter.

That puts him in line with teammates Derrick White (who remains extension-eligible), Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson as solid young players who lack super-tantalizing upside.

In a class below, No. 41 pick Tre Jones and Drew Eubanks (whom the Spurs did well to re-sign for the minimum) could develop into solid backups.

San Antonio also re-signed Jakob Poeltl for a reasonable $26.25 million over three years. Poeltl rebounds well, plays versatile defense and can score some inside. The 25-year-old is already a reasonable starting center.

But Poeltl doesn’t fit well with DeMar DeRozan, another non-shooter from deep. That’s a problem for a team that still has plenty of veterans and a coach, Gregg Popovich, capable of lifting more than his fair share of teams into the playoff race.

DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills are all on expiring contracts. Gobs of 2021 cap space provides optionality. But at some point soon, the Spurs ought to pick a direction other than “slowly slipping.”

That didn’t happen this offseason.

Unless Vassell continues the trend of San Antonio’s lottery picks becoming stars.

Again, I’m not counting on that. But I like Vassell just enough to think the Spurs slightly improved their standing ahead of next year’s crossroads.