Brad Stevens Still Believes in Celtics Prospect: ‘He Was in Our Top 7’

Celtics Aaron Nesmith

Getty Images Aaron Nesmith of the Celtics

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens will explore his options ahead of next month’s NBA trade deadline. As the anticipation builds, there’s one Celtics prospect, among others, that could be on the move between now and February 10.

Celtics’ Aaron Nesmith, who Boston selected at no. 14 in the 2020 NBA Draft, was touted as one of the better shooters in his draft class and has played in only 75 games throughout his first two seasons in the NBA thus far. Plagued by one setback to another, including a foot injury at Vanderbilt, back spams during his rookie campaign, and COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Nesmith’s struggled in finding his footing in Boston.

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Brad Stevens on Aaron Nesmith’s Trajectory: ‘He’s Going to be Fine’

However, none of it has hindered the confidence of his first NBA head coach, Stevens, who joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich morning show Thursday for his weekly interview. Brad’s sole season with Nesmith was enough for the Celtics president of basketball operations to believe and doesn’t think Aaron’s small sample-sized play, thus far, is an accurate representation of his first-round pick’s trajectory.

“He’s going to be fine,” Stevens said to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich morning show. “He’s a good player. Work ethic, athleticism, versatility, team-ness, and the bottom line is: at the start of each of the two last seasons with a new coaching staff and a new system with a new environment; he struggled at the start of both.

“And, when he first started practice — when I was coaching two years ago — right out of the pandemic when we started in December, I thought he was a couple of years away, and four months later, I thought he was in our top seven or eight guys.”

Nesmith’s work ethic, as well as his high energy, has been well-documented. Brad spoke to it towards the end of the 2020-21 regular season, revealing Nesmith was typically the first player in the gym before practice.


Stevens on Nesmith: ‘He’s a Guy we Believe in Strongly’

Celtics fans also got quite the dose of Aaron’s energy per his slapstick style of play, or what Nesmith calls — The Art of Falling — which often resulted in seeing him hit the deck or fly into the stands.

“He has a motor, he has a will,” Stevens added. “If anything, he’s been affected by the fact that we have other older guys that have played well. But he’s a guy that we believe in strongly. He’s going to be good, and I think that he’s going to get more comfortable with the system, the style, and everything else that they’re playing this year. Again, through the transition from last year with a new coach and then again this year — I think he’ll be fine. I’m a believer.”

Celtics veteran Josh Richardson, who’s currently shooting at a 40% clip while averaging 26.2 minutes per game, has emerged as one of Boston’s elite shooters. Nesmith, who averaged 4.7 points, 2.8 rebounds while shooting 37% from behind the 3-point arc his rookie year, regressed this season.


Aaron Nesmith Shines in Maine

He’s averaged 3.0 points while shooting 23.4% from 3 in 29 games, which ultimately triggered a spot start for the Maine Celtics in the G League. Aaron dropped 21 points on 9-of-16 attempts along with a pair of threes, pulled down nine rebounds to go with his five assists in 31 minutes.

Still, the Celtics are entering the second half of the 2021-22 campaign ranked 22nd in 3-point shooting percentage, per TeamRankings.com, and will need to make a significant leap in that particular statistical category in order to bolster Boston’s offense, this season.

Otherwise, Nesmith could be onto greener pastures.

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