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The late 20’s: Aaron Nesmith Scouting Report

Name: Aaron Nesmith

Dominant Hand: Right

Age: 20.4

Height: 6’6

Wingspan: 6’10

Weight: 215 lbs

School: Vanderbilt

Position: SG/SF

2018 ESPN Top 100 Ranking: 69

NBADraft.Net Mock Ranking: 21

Passing:

Passing is certainly the greatest shortcoming of Nesmith’s game. As a sophomore this season with a 6.7 minute per game increase, and a 5.6% usage rate increase, his assists per game are down from 1.4 to 0.9, and his assist-to-turnover ratio has worsened from 1.14 to 1.89. In both seasons, he’s been free of having to carry much of the playmaking load – last season playing alongside Darius Garland, and Saben Lee, and this season playing next to Scotty Pippen Jr., and Saben Lee. Last season, Nesmith accounted for 9.9% of the team’s assists, and this season, he’s accounted for 7.3% of the team’s assists. Ultimately, his playmaking responsibility has diminished, if anything, and yet playing a bigger role in the offense, his passing ability has gone down. This implies that using Nesmith as a higher usage player, he will not be able to create offense as well for his teammates, and will be more focused on scoring for himself, until he is forced to pass. While this narrative may make Nesmith sound like a selfish player, he is not. Rather, he is playing on a far less talented team this year without the likes of Simi Shittu and Darius Garland, and has had to take on a majority of the team’s scoring load for the team’s best interest.

While not a great passer currently, there is room to improve. His objective with the ball in his hand should be to create the best shot possible for the team, however he is often only looking to create for himself. He finds his assists most often when he is trapped on a drive, and is able to make an easy pass out to an open teammate, or under the basket. With his vision, the potential to become a better and more efficient playmaker is there. At a higher level, he should have more trust in his teammates and will be more willing to make those passes, however right now, it seems like all he’s interested in is scoring.

As can be seen from the video below however, he still knows when to make the right pass. With his teammate rolling to the basket and a blitz coming at him several feet above the brink, he makes the right pass on time and on target, rather than trying to dribble through the double.

Driving:

Through 14 games played this season, Nesmith averages 3.2 two-point field goals made, on 50.0% shooting from inside the arc. With his threatening shot from outside, defenders play him tight off the catch and will fight over screens to defend him, which opens up his driving lanes easily. He has a quick first step, and is decisive as to whether he wants to shoot, pass or drive as soon as the ball touches his hands, which allows his team’s offense to stay in its flow. He also has a low sweep on his drive, which allows him to get downhill and avoid being picked off by the defender.

While an aggressive, quick, and decisive driver to the rim, he does have trouble going to his left. Even when being forced left by the defender, he most often opts to shoot, pass, or use his handle to shift the defender and go right, as can be seen from the clip below.

Another impressive aspect of his drive is his direct step he takes to the rim right after he gets by his primary defender. As opposed to wasting a split second once he gets inside to make his decision, his objective is to score the basketball, as it should be.

Finishing:

Once Nesmith blows by his defender with his quick first step and low sweep, the positives shine. Nesmith is great at using his big frame to finish through contact, and always keeps his head up to know where the help defense is coming from. He’s fearless in his attacks to the rim and is not deterred by bigger defenders waiting for him, but uses his creativity and athleticism to finish. While his athleticism may not be able to compete with the likes of other NBA players, his body is certainly NBA ready with the frame of a modern athletic shooting guard. Below is an example of Nesmith getting downhill on a direct drive to the rim, and finishing through contact with his strength.

Also, he has an impressive athletic ability and can change hands mid-air, or contort his body to get around defenders and finish below the rim.

While not great at creating for others off the drive, as aforementioned, Nesmith does average 4.5 trips to the free throw line per game, and converts 82.5% of those attempts. This statistically implies that over 50% of the time on his drives to the rim, he will either score the basket, or earn free throws and put points on the board.

Shooting:

Nesmith is one of the best shooters in the entire NCAA. A lot of good shooting is confidence, and Nesmith has that too. “Before the season, I told my trainer and my coaches — everybody, really — that was I was going to be the best shooter in college basketball,” he said.

Prior to Nesmith’s foot injury on January 10th, he led the nation in three-point percentage (52.2%), three-pointers attempted per game (4.29), and three-pointers made (60).

Not only does Nesmith have the ability to shoot the ball well but he has deep range too, and can knock down shots regardless of where the defender is coming from, which will be an asset in allowing him to translate his shooting ability to the NBA.

His shot preparation also can’t go unnoticed, as whenever he curls off a screen and knows he’ll be open, he already has his pocket ready and his knees bent, ready to let the ball go in half a second from when he catches it, as can be seen from the clip below.

What should be noted with regard to Nesmith’s shooting ability is that he’s much more comfortable shooting off the catch than off the dribble, and if he doesn’t have both feet planted when he catches it, he won’t shoot it. When the defender closes out to him before he can get his feet set, he will use his dribble and explosiveness to drive the lane, rather than shoot the ball.

Moving without the ball:

Arguably the most impressive area of Nesmith’s game offensively, beyond his shooting ability, is his intangibles. The way that he reads screens is top tier of an NBA level. He uses teammates’ screens creatively beyond just curling around or cutting behind them.

Also, as a wing player, he sets more screens than an average wing would to get the offense moving, as can be seen below.

Finally, he’s very good at finding the open areas on the court, which even when it doesn’t directly lead to an open shot for him, it shifts the defense and opens up the floor for his teammates. From the clip below, we can see how he recognizes a hole in the defense and dives to the rim for an easy basket.

Defense:

Though not an uber athletic player, he does move well laterally for someone with a big frame. He’s an above average defender at the college level because of his ability to make reads and step into passing lanes, and also play the help side effectively and get to the help spot quickly.

Even when he beats the offensive player to the spot as a help defender, he’s not a big shot blocking threat as a wing player, but can still force an extra pass, or make his presence felt.

Nesmith is also a versatile defender, able to match up with almost any other wing player, and can switch onto some smaller fours, or even one guards who aren’t extremely quick.

It should also be noted that when Nesmith moves laterally, he crosses his feet over each other, which inhibits him from changing directions quickly. With a technique change here, he would be a much better perimeter defender.

Areas of improvement:

One of Nesmith’s biggest weaknesses, despite his maturity and willingness to share the ball, is his shot selection. Almost like a young Kobe Bryant, knowing that he’s the best scorer on his team serves to hurt him. Since he’s not a cocky player, this shouldn’t hurt him at the NBA level when he has to earn all of his minutes from scratch, but it has contributed to lower shooting percentages and hurt his team at the college level.

Another area that he will have to improve on if he wants to be an above average player at the next level is dealing with doubleteams. Nesmith often rushes his decision when he sees a second defender, which leads to poorer decisions. As can be seen from the play below, after he pivots, a gap between the two defenders opens up for an easy layup, but he escalates his commitment and throws a poor pass right into the hands of the opposition.

Again, he panics when the double comes to the post, and before he can use his retreat dribble and spin baseline, he loses the ball out of bounds.

Ultimately, this comes back to his ability to read defenses earlier than they can trap him, so he’ll have to develop his playmaking skills before he can be a well-rounded offensive threat. Right now, he’s more of a pure scorer.

Finally, Nesmith does not play with his head up focused on teammates. He’s a strong rebounder for his position and is not afraid to box out or try to snatch boards over bigger players, but almost always when he gets a rebound, his intention is to score (regardless of whether its an offensive or defensive rebound). Often, there will be a better pass that he can make to a teammate to result in a better and more efficient team possession, but he is too focused on getting the ball to where he wants it in his hands instead. From the clip below, he could have made an outlet pass leading to an easy fastbreak basket for his team, but he tries to dribble through three defenders and gets fouled:

Team fit:

With the modernization of the NBA, 3-and-D wings are at a premium. Nesmith has the potential to be elite in that department, and even expand his offensive game beyond just a shooter and slasher. With Fred VanVleet hitting unrestricted free agency this summer, and Kyle Lowry turning 34 in a matter of weeks, hitting unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2021, it appears as though Nick Nurse has already begun grooming Terence Davis Jr. to be able to pick up some point guard minutes. Even if the team next year and the season following looks as it does now, there should be a role for Nesmith on the wing.

He’s a more do-it-all version of Matt Thomas, although not as lethal a shooter. He’s a better defender and a more polished offensive player than Patrick McCaw, though a less skilled playmaker. He’ll likely be in competition with both of these players to earn minutes behind OG Anunoby and Norman Powell, but should Anunoby be slotted more into the power forward position in coming seasons, that would provide more of an opportunity for Nesmith.

Why he might drop in the draft:

His greatest weakness, as aforementioned, is his playmaking ability. Unquestionably, that’s a big deal, but it’s something that can be worked on and teams understand that. Rather, the stress fracture that he suffered in his foot could hinder teams’ desire to want to take him in the middle of the first round of the draft. In 2014, Joel Embiid suffered from a similar injury, which as he said, had him prepared to go as low as the second round. While this is extreme, the injury certainly will play an impact on how much risk teams are willing to take on with their first round pick, and how long they might be willing to wait for their rookie to reach full-health.

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