Height - 6’6
Weight -215 lbs
Wingspan - 6’10
Over the last few years, the Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball side has been rather poor in terms of record. Vanderbilt have struggled in SEC play but the Nashville university has quietly developed into a talent factory. Darius Garland went fifth overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. Aaron Nesmith could be the second lottery pick that has come out of Jerry Stackhouse’s team.
Nesmith did not play a full season due to an injury in his right foot but during the fourteen games that he did play, Nesmith looked incredible as he torched defenses from deep. Nesmith was a sniper from deep and looked like the type of player that every single NBA team is hunting for.
Spacing is a core tenet of a modern NBA offense. A well-spaced floor can make a team unstoppable on offense. Nesmith’s shooting would provide a ton of floor spacing for any NBA team. Nesmith shot 52.2% on 8.2 3PA last season, he is a player that defenses would have to respect from deep.
Moreover, Aaron Nesmith’s effect from deep goes deeper than his efficiency. Nesmith has shown that he has a range of tricks in his bag to get himself open from deep. He is skilled at curling off screens or relocating into catch and shoot 3-point attempts. This kind of movement stretches out a defense and creates space to work inside.
The importance of such a player can be seen in last season’s NBA Finals. Duncan Robinson’s ability to take quick, movement-based 3-point shots meant that the Lakers were always stretched out to the perimeter which made doubling Jimmy Butler a difficult proposition.
Nesmith will not become Duncan Robinson but he has the shooting skill and confidence to become a strong marksman from deep. His shooting has meant that Nesmith has been projected to be a lottery pick for the last few months. Oklahoma City would have to make a trade with the Suns to have the best possible opportunity to take Nesmith in the Draft.
In my Vassell breakdown, I formulated a realistic trade package that I think would get the Thunder the 10th pick in the NBA Draft. The deal of Schroder for the 10th pick will not change for Nesmith, the Suns will still want a valuable asset.
Nesmith’s shooting is his greatest strength in my opinion. When I watched his performance against Auburn, I was surprised by his versatility as a shooter. Nesmith looked really comfortable taking and making moving jump shots from outside.
There was one play which has stuck in my mind since I watched that game. On this particular possession, Nesmith made a baseline cut from the strong-side of the floor to the weak-side floor before draining a jumper. He was contested and had very little space to get a clean shot off. Nesmith was not fazed by the defensive attention and knocked the look down.
Nesmith is also a fundamentally sound defender who is capable on that end of the floor. He is very good at using his long arms and understanding of the game to bother his assignment into a poor shooting night. Nesmith projects to be a strong individual defender.
Nesmith is not without faults on defense. In the Auburn game, he struggled to contain Isaac Okoro due to a lack of athleticism. Okoro is a strong athlete whereas Nesmith is merely good on that front. Nesmith can get up and dunk the ball but he lacks an elite first step which can make guarding a more athletic player tricky.
Nesmith has a good technical base to work from and he is clearly a smart player. It is likely that he works out how to defend effectively at the NBA level without being an elite athlete but this will always be an issue for the Thunder to work around.
His understanding of team defense was fairly solid against Auburn but there were moments of inconsistency. There were a few occasions where Nesmith was late on the help rotation and Auburn were able to get a really good look.
The biggest flaw in Nesmith’s game is his playmaking. Nesmith can create his own shot but he lacks the passing vision and accuracy to be an effective creator for his teammates. This is not a problem if he operates within a 3&D role but it does limit his long-term ceiling as a player.
Despite Nesmith’s flaws, he would be a strong pick for the Thunder. Elite marksman are hugely valuable in today’s league due to their effect on offense. Strong, efficient shooting from deep causes offensive efficiency to tick upwards a few percentage points. Aaron Nesmith is definitely a player that Sam Presti should consider.