Shooting has been the Boston Celtics‘ most significant downfall this season, specifically from beyond the three-point line.
But, according to one NBA executive, the Celtics answer could reside on their bench and is waiting for a genuine opportunity. Aaron Nesmith was widely regarded as the best shooter in the 2020 NBA draft but has failed to live up to those expectations since entering the league, partially due to minimal opportunities and a miscast role.
In a recent article, Heavy.com’s Steve Bulpett wrote, “When it was suggested in a Heavy.com discussion with a league exec that Nesmith might be a reasonable facsimile of Miami marksman Duncan Robinson if given the same opportunity, the exec said, “That’s one reason that (Heat coach) Erik Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the league. And (Grizzlies’ coach) Taylor Jenkins. They look at what players can become.”
Unlike Duncan Robinson, Nesmith was selected during the draft process but has faced similar hurdles to the Miami Heat sniper in terms of making his presence felt during his early career. Still, there are similarities between the two. There is an enormous difference between being a good spot-up, and being a movement shooter (catch-and-shoot) who is accurate despite their feet not being set. Both Nesmith and Robinson fall into the latter category, or at least, that’s where they look most comfortable.
Yet, the NBA is a half-court-based league, where the stars command the basketball, and the shooters position themselves around the perimeter, looking to punish any space off the catch. Of course, with enough practice, a movement shooter can become a fearsome threat when spotting up, making them a multi-faceted scoring threat, which is the level Robinson currently resides at, thanks to prolonged exposure to NBA-level basketball.
We’re yet to See Nesmith’s Scoring Potential
Throughout his 18 months in the NBA, Nesmith has taken a total of 180 three-point shots, draining 57 of them, giving him a lackluster conversion rate of 31.7%. Yet the NBA is a different beast when compared to the college ranks, and an adjustment period is inevitable.
So, while Nesmith’s numbers don’t back up his reputation, it’s most likely due to his limited exposure to NBA defenses. We’ve all seen the sophomore wing play, he looks like everything is moving a step too fast for him, and oftentimes finds himself in the wrong position – both offensively and defensively. Those mistakes can only be resolved via game time at the NBA level, and the trust of a coaching staff that he will come good once he finds his rhythm within the offense.
Still, expecting that type of development after 79 games is a tall task, especially when the player can have a run in the first team and then find themselves glued to the bench for months at a time.
Perhaps Nesmith’s inconsistent opportunities are what the NBA executive was talking about, because expecting a young wing to be a consistent contributor scarcely plans out, especially with less than 100 games under their belt. You only need to look at Grant Williams’ second-year struggles, and how being provided with the opportunity to play through those struggles helped develop him into the reliable rotation player he is today. It’s the same for Nesmith, he needs to be provided with a significant role within the rotation if we’re ever going to see what he’s capable of as a long-term piece to the Celtics puzzle.
Nesmith is a Potential Two-Way Wing
Drafting isn’t an exact science, players often get pigeon-holed into specific roles before they ever step foot on an NBA floor. However, sometimes those opinions can be restrictive to a player’s overall development. For example, Nesmith came out of the draft labeled as a single-skill shooter and was expected to struggle with other aspects of his offensive game.
Yet, during his limited minutes with the Celtics over the last two seasons, it’s clear the Vanderbilt product is capable of more than just spacing the floor. Thus far, we’ve seen Nesmith attack close-outs, pressure the rim, finish with force in transition, and break guys down off the dribble. And we’re all aware of the 22-year-olds all-action performances on the defensive end, earning him the nickname “Crash”.
There’s a slight chance that Nesmith if given the opportunity, develops into far more than a single-skilled shooter. However, right now, Boston would settle for the South Carolina native recapturing his shooting ability and closing the talent gap between him and Robinson, as the latter is a vital cog in the Heat’s offensive gameplan.
Of course, Nesmith’s job isn’t made easier by the veteran roadblocks on the Celtics roster, and a head coach who has been incredibly reliant on the team’s elder statesmen throughout the first half of the season. If Nesmith remains on the Celtics roster beyond the trade deadline, head coach Ime Udoka will need to find a role for the highly-talented lottery pick, otherwise, the Celtics risk wasting a potentially top-tier scoring talent and that doesn’t bode well for anyone.