"With the 14th pick in the NBA draft, the Boston Celtics select... Aaron Nesmith from Vanderbilt." Unless you did your fair share of research on the draft before-hand there it's most likely you've never heard of Aaron Nesmith. That is what happens when you aren't one of the one-and-done players going to a big-name school like Duke or Gonzaga that the scouts gauge over. Vanderbilt has a great program with great players and Nesmith was one of the greatest players in college basketball last season and he will pan out to be a great pick by the C's that can contribute right away.
Nobody has the perfect analysis of a player or how they will fair against NBA talent however, I have watched multiple games and checked in on the opinions players, coaches, and scouts have on him.
6'6 guard guard shot 83% from the free throw line in both his freshman and sophomore season (Photo: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)
While this is not a sure-fire, can't miss prospect, I do believe that the value at 14th is immense. It is a make or miss league, and this guy did a lot of the former and not much of the latter. Aaron shot a NCAA best 52% from the 3-point line. Let me say that again... 52% from 3. Incredible numbers even with the line being closer than the NBA 3. He also played under coach Jerry Stackhouse, a great coach and former NBA player that spent over a decade and a half in the league. He also runs an NBA type of offense at Vanderbilt so Nesmith should be somewhat more NBA ready than the typical draft prospect. Two years in college even with a shortened season as well as running an NBA offense the whole way through should give him the advantage in comparison to other rookies.
Nesmith has a bunch of strengths that go beyond just shooting at an efficient clip. He also has shown NBA range hitting shots from multiple feet behind the line off-the-catch and even off-the-dribble. He also does still attack the basket and does not seem like he is settling for shots, for a shooter of his caliber he keeps a good balance of inside and outside scoring. A very composed free throw shooter and disciplined defender. He will not shock you with his leaping ability often however i saw many examples of incredible athleticism. Specifically, a couple fast-break dunks that showed some real bounce and the occasional block at the rim that are just as eye-popping as a LeBron chase-down block.
His greatest skills come as an actor while moving without the ball, he lulls defenders into a false sense of security and then as soon as they take their eye off of him, he blitzes to the open spot on the floor for an open jumper. Vanderbilt ran a lot of plays for him to get up some long-range shots and he consistently executed night after night. Defensively he is solid and slides his feet well for college, however I do not see him coming in as a great defender, Marcus Smart and Jaylen will help him grow on that end of the floor.
Overall, he was an incredible shooter at Vanderbilt, but in order to transcend into an incredible shooter in the NBA he will need to shoot quicker. His release is slower than the great shooters in the league, this is hopefully because he had so much time to shoot in college so he took that time while shooting, however the NBA contests will force him to shoot quicker and hopefully his efficiency doesn't drop because of that. He also struggles with attacking the rim, he has good tendencies in that he will go to the basket however, much like Tatum when he was a rookie, Nesmith tends to shy away from contact and not use that athleticism to his advantage. He can finish on both sides but fades away on finishes in situations where he should be right under the basket or even dunking the ball. Nothing unfixable so this should improve with time much like Tatum did. Defensively he struggles with quicker guards and stronger big men so fine tuning his strength or quickness will help him and allow Stevens to pick a certain type of player that he can guard effectively.
His greatest weakness as a player is why he was not a census top 10 draft selection. His playmaking ability is more than just below average. His dribbling, passing, footwork, and control of the offense with the ball in his hands are all terrible. I saw no ability to pass or hit the open man throughout any of the games I watched. He is a willing passer and should not be labeled as selfish, he is just scoring oriented. On the Celtics that will have to change, he will not be the number one option at any point this upcoming season. I watched him dribble the ball off his feet with little to no pressure on him in clutch moments multiple times. OFF HIS OWN FEET! That is what high school players do and I saw it multiple times. He also loses his footing and waits until the last possible second give up the ball so he ends up in situations that are tough to pass out of which causes unforced turnovers. He averaged less more turnovers than assists as the main option on the team and even when he was a freshman, he averaged more turnovers than assists as well.
Aaron Nesmith (like every prospect ever) has potential to be great or be terrible it just depends on what the training staff can get out of him. He will be great for this team if we run plays for him like the Heat ran plays for Duncan Robinson. He should never be put in position for his weaknesses to be exposed. The Celtics have great defenders so he will never be defending anyone out of his range and the Celtics have many ball-handlers and scorers, so the playmaking burden will never be on him either. What they don't have is a shooting specialist, they have guys that can shoot just not at the rate Nesmith does. He fits this team perfectly and as long as he can get around 15 minutes a game then he can average 7ppg on 38% from three off the bench and be in consideration for one of the All-Rookie teams. Doing all this while developing the other areas of his game to eventually turn him into a great player alongside Tatum and Brown. I love this pick by the Celtics, it fills a need to win now, while also having the potential to develop into an All-Star someday.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan