It’s easy to say several Spurs players have exceeded expectations on an individual level so far in this very young 2021-22 NBA season, and second-year forward Devin Vassell is one of them. (Just look at the SVP leader boards so far; who had him jotted down as the Spurs’ third best player this early in the season?) Vassell continues to be the Spurs’ sparkplug off the bench on most nights, and he did it again with the Dallas Mavericks visiting town, scoring in all varieties from threes, to floaters and dunks on his way to a career high 21 points.
After a slow start and the Spurs getting down by double figures, he got hot and contributed 14 points in the first half to keep the Spurs within one, and in the third quarter he got another seven points and to help the Spurs get out to a 10-point lead.
Unfortunately, his team kind of forgot he was the hot hand after that, as he only got one shot up in fourth quarter as they fell in the final minute. Regardless, if Vassell keeps this up, he could arguably be in the running for Sixth Man of the Year and/or Most Improved Player (although the latter isn’t often given to second-year players since jumps are to be expected).
Dejounte Murray also continued to show off his improved, all-around game, putting up another near-triple double of 23 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. While he was only 2-7 from three for the night, it shows he is not bashful about taking them, which is a good thing for a team that is still trying to find its way beyond the arc. He might even have something going with this shot off a little move to his left at the halftime buzzer.
Former Spur Boban Marjanovic gave his former team — which was short its starting center — all kinds of fits, but Murray was able to deny his former giant teammate at least one easy bucket.
And while it has already been state that the Spurs should have made it a point to get Vassell the ball more in the fourth quarter, it’s not like Murray wasn’t out there making up for it, as he had nine points in the final frame to help keep the Spurs in the game. He continues to trend towards being the “closer” that they are seeking, and while it hasn’t led to many wins yet, it’s good to know they have someone who isn’t afraid to take over in the moment.
Lastly, a shoutout for Drew Eubanks is in order. He drew the task of starting in the place of Jakob Poeltl, and while he can’t be expected to replace Jak’s production entirely, he was aggressive on both ends, including making the defensive play of the game with a perfect block of Tim Hardaway Jr. at the apex of a high flying dunk.
Hopefully the Spurs efforts will eventually start translating into wins. While they currently sit at 2-6, that record felt expected when the schedule first game out and the brutal opening stretch was revealed. Of course, that’s always harder to accept when looking back and considering they easily could have won five of those games with fewer mistakes. Such is life with a rebuilding, learning young team, but one thing is for sure: they’re certainly more entertaining to watch than many expected.
The schedule now starts easing up a bit, with three winnable games at Orlando, Oklahoma City, and back at home against Sacramento on the docket. Hopefully the Spurs can use those games to find a winning formula and get back on track before, you guessed it, the Mavs return for the third outing of the season next Friday.