NBA Draft Projections for Vassell, Williams

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Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams have both declared for the 2020 NBA draft, to the surprise of almost no one. Neither player said they were signing with an agent, so they could still return to Florida State depending on the draft projections they receive over the next month and a half (UPDATE: Vassell has said he has signed with an agent on the Tuck Talk podcast).

In this extremely peculiar time amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, their ability to rise up or down draft boards won’t be as volatile as it should be. Let’s understand their decisions to declare now, first.

Devin Vassell came to Tallahassee as the lone member of a recruiting class and had no attention behind him as just the 200th-ranked prospect in 24/7’s rankings. He held off being redshirted and as a freshman in 2018-19, he sparingly played to begin the season, but became a steady rotation player by the end and had some incredible moments in the postseason. He finished that season averaging just 4.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.5 SPG, and 0.3 BPG, but shot 43.7% from the floor and 41.9% from 3.

Vassell saw a meteoric rise in his stock throughout the season. As a sophomore, Vassell was a full-time starter, playing the second-most minutes and scoring the most points on a Florida State team that won the regular-season ACC championship, and would’ve had an incredible chance to help take the ‘Noles to their first Final Four since 1972. He finished this past season averaging 12.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.0 BPG while shooting 49.0% from the floor and 41.5% from 3.

The 6’7″ guard/forward racked up the accolades as well: finishing second in the ACC Most-Improved award, was named to the All-ACC Second Team, and first-team All-District according to the NABC. His stock began the season as a relative unknown that a few people saw real potential in. As Florida State became one of the best teams in the country, Vassell’s stock rose with FSU’s rise in the polls. By December, NBA scouts were flocking to Tallahassee to see the 6’7″ wing with a freakish wingspan.

His skill set as a 3-and-D wing is the one thing the NBA is clamoring for. A lot of teams have their stars, but very few have players that can play on the wing while defending and shooting the ball at a high level. He was the only player in college basketball this season to have a true shooting percentage (which weighs free throws, 2-point shots, and  3-point shots) above 55%, a 3-point percentage above 40%, a 2% block rate, a 2% steal rate, and a turnover rate below 7%. And all of those numbers he blew out of the water: 59% True Shooting, 41.5% from 3, 2.8% Steal rate, 4.1 block rate, and a 6.6% turnover rate. He’ll be able to play right away on a lot of teams and make an immediate impact, but his potential is still very high.

As we saw this season, he has the ability to drive and pull-up from midrange. With his high release, he can get to spots and shoot over a lot of smaller defenders. While the NBA won’t have as many smaller defenders to take advantage of, as Vassell gets stronger and grows into his game, he’ll be able to become a more consistent offensive threat, even if that won’t be his role right away.

Big boards and mock drafts slate him anywhere between the 12th and 20th best prospect, meaning he should be a mid-late first-round pick. There are a lot of teams projected to finish in that area that needs his kind of skillset. Here are some teams I would watch out for as potential fits: Portland Trailblazers (Proj. 14th pick), Minnesota Timberwolves via the Nets (Proj. 16th pick), Dallas Mavericks (Proj, 18th pick), Milwaukee Bucks via the Pacers (Proj. 19th pick), and the Brooklyn Nets via the 76ers (Proj. 20th pick).

Williams is a much different story. He came in as a heralded 5-star prospect and a McDonalds All-American expecting to go one-and-done. While he didn’t start right away like he would’ve liked, he still had a lasting impact. As a freshman, Williams averaged 9.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 1.0 BPG while shooting 45.0% from the floor and 32.0% from 3.

With his 6’8″, 225-pound frame, he projects as an above-average defender with tons of offensive potential. At one point in the season, I compared him to Jeff Green, but he has a lot of Kawhi Leonard in his game as well. He shows little-to-no emotion while locking down on defense. His offensive game grew as the season progressed, moving from spot-up threat and backdoor cutter to Pull-Up Pat. With his size and strength, he can muscle his way into the lane, get to his spots, and is another player with a high release that can rise above smaller defenders.

Like most Florida State players, he has elite length and athleticism and can project as another 3-and-D type of player in the NBA. His projections are a little more wide-ranging, going from as high as 11th to as low as 25th. The same teams that are interested in Vassell will likely be interested in Williams as well: Portland, Minnesota, Dallas, Brooklyn, Milwaukee.

Williams is a player who would’ve solidified his stock after going through the NBA combine with his athleticism, but the issue is there may not be a combine. It was originally scheduled for May 21-24, but with the coronavirus pandemic and the NBA suspending all play and activities, the combine will be pushed back at the very least with the potential to be canceled.

It makes sense for both Vassell and Williams to declare now, and they likely had encouragement from the coaching staff to test the waters. Until they sign an agent, they have time to improve their stock and still come back to school, but with next year’s draft projecting to be a much stronger field, go make that money now. Even if they were to come back and improve on their game, they likely would receive similar mid-late first-round projections. Go make that money now.

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