Aaron Nesmith NBA 2020 Draft Scouting Report by Zachary Smith

Over the last weeks thanks to the contribution of outside bloggers and scouts we have been compiling an amazing array of 2020 NBA Draft reports. This time we bring you a Top 20 player from Vanderbilt University scouted by Zachary Smith.

Aaron Nesmith

6’6”

213lb

6’10” wingspan

Physical comparison: Glenn Robinson

Vanderbilt

20 years old

29 PER / 6.9 AST% / 8 REB%

127.8 OFF RTG and 106.8 DEF RTG for a +21 NET RTG

68.5 TS% on 26.3 USG%

2nd highest TS% in high major

Offense:

Nesmith flourished at the offensive end of the floor during his sophomore year at Vanderbilt. He is an elite jump shooter, especially from three-point range. He shot at a 52% clip from deep during the ‘19-’20 season for the Commodores. This number isn’t sustainable at the NBA level, but his touch should translate well. According to Todd Schneirder, a software engineer with a degree from Yale, you can project a college player’s shooting percentages drop around 6% during the jump from NCAA to NBA contests. This would still put Nesmith at an incredible 46% from three. He has a smooth jumper that doesn’t need much work. He has a faint hitch at times when shooting on the move and could possibly speed it up some, but those are two minor issues. The speed of his jumper isn’t really a problem for him because defenders do not faze him at all. He is great at squaring up to the basket when shooting off screens. This shows in his outstanding 60% three-point field goal percentage when running off screens. While he has a rather small sample size (38 attempts), even if his percentage dropped 20 points, he would still be considered an elite shooter by NBA standards. When it comes to his shot selection, Nesmith stays within his role. This season, he put up 107 jumpers from 3 and only 19 jump shots from inside the arc. He doesn’t force jumpers if he is run off the line, rather he passes to another perimeter player or uses his length to try to create space. His 82.5 free throw percentage also bodes well for these skills to translate over. A lot people also assumed that his scoring would go down considerably once Vanderbilt entered SEC play, but during his freshman year, his scoring average jumped from 7.8PPG to 13.5 PPG from out of conference to SEC play. His 3-point percentage also jumped from 32.6% to 34.2% with a higher usage.

Nesmith doesn’t have the handle of a lead guard, but he uses what he has effectively. Though he’s not an isolation player by any means, when catching the ball off screens, he uses his dribbling skills very well to create space. His triple threat moves keep defenders on their toes. His favorite dribble move is a side dribble off the catch to get wide open jumpers. He still finishes his shot extremely well off this move, 74th percentile according to Synergy. In the triple threat, his athleticism won’t get him to the basket, but he uses his length on his first step to get past defenders. These moves to create space are based on extremely solid offensive footwork. Nesmith is a straight-line driver when he doesn’t get his initial jumper off the catch. He relies on his ability to catch and rip, get that first step, and push through contact.

The weakest parts of his offensive game are his isolation and Pick and Roll (P&R) scoring along with his passing game. He only had 19 shots in isolation and P&R combined this year, going 5/7 in an extremely limited sample size of isolation shots. When looking at his P&R shots, he is currently shooting 2/12 this season. His court awareness is not the best and it shows especially in the P&R. His reads are basic and that shows with a 1:2 AST/TO ratio. At the next level, he won’t project as much of a shot creator, rather as more of a shot maker and roving shooter. One thing I did notice while watching Vanderbilt vs Loyola Chicago is that he has a lack of spatial awareness. He stepped out of bounds three separate times in the corner when trying to get free for jump shots. This may be just a one-off issue, but it is something to look into.

Screen Shot 2020-04-22 at 09.09.16
Offensive and Defensive playtypes based on 14 games played this season at Vanderbilt

Defense:

Nesmith is an underrated prospect on the defensive end. His strengths lie in his length, hustle, and his off-ball ability. Nesmith stands out with a 6’10” wingspan which can affect shooters, even when he closes out late. He doubled his steals per game from his first to second year, which shows solid off the ball instincts. He reads passing lanes well and intercepts those passes at an above average rate. When playing off the ball, Nesmith is good at being able to split two players on the far side of the court. He has solid decision making in these situations, using his length and intelligence to guard both until he can get help. He rotates well because of his constant hustle. Nesmith may not be the most athletic defensive player, but it is very obvious that he is always trying and you will very rarely see a play where he lets up.

When defending at the rim, Nesmith is solid at rotating and using positioning to defend. He doesn’t have the vertical to consistently challenge shots at the rim, but gets to spots early enough to force offensive players to pull up early. He is a guy who is willing to take charges, and could use his positioning to guard fours if he puts on some muscle. As a shot blocker, his ceiling is a block percentage between 4-5%. He won’t be an elite interior defender, but should be a deterrent.

An area where Nesmith struggles is his footwork and P&R work. He needs to work on his lateral quickness. At Vanderbilt, Nesmith did a lot of shading and used his length to force players to go a certain direction. Once he gets to the NBA, guards will attack that top foot and beat him to the rim. In the P&R, he can be slow to get over screens. This forces the ball side wing and interior big to defend 3 on 2 actions which can easily be won by offenses. Nesmith will work best in situations where he is constantly icing screens or in switching schemes. He has the length to hinder offensive players in icing situations and has the frame to switch onto bigs without being a complete liability. If he put on some more muscle, that would be especially true. He is an active defensive player, but is extremely flat footed. This shows especially in isolation sets where Nesmith is put on an island. When he improves with his lateral quickness, he will become a plus defender.

Improvement from Freshman to Sophomore Year:

Nesmith showed huge improvement at Vanderbilt. It started with Garland going down with injury during Nesmith’s freshman year. In SEC play, he improved steadily with four 20-point games versus top talent in the country. This year, he started off non-conference play by dominating. One key is that he was consistent. His lowest points scored this year was 14 points on 14 shots. Nesmith didn’t have a single game this season where he put up more shots than points. This shows a combination of high volume and efficiency.

1.8 3PT/G to 4.3 3PT/G (+2.5)

0.7 STL/G to 1.4 STL/G (+0.7)

4.2 FL/40MIN to 3.1 FL/40MIN (-1.1)

53.6 TS% to 68.5 TS% (+14.9%)

1.4 STL% to 2.3 STL% (+0.9%)

.103 WS/40 to .207 WS/40 (+.104)

Injury History:

Nesmith’s season was unfortunately cut short in January due to a stress fracture in his right foot. This injury typically takes some time to recover, but with ample rest and proper training, the likelihood of him reinjuring his foot in the same way is very slim. According to a report by Hoops Habit, out of all NBA players who have suffered stress fractures from 2000-2015, only 13% face recurrent fractures. The biggest concern for NBA teams about Nesmith is definitely how he will recover from this injury. Recently, the NBA had gone through a trend of allowing injured collegiate prospects to rest their first year in the league ex: Ben Simmons, Michael Porter Jr. This may allow him to be more lenient when it comes to coming back onto the court. He is also young at 20 years old, and his play style is one that isn’t that dependent on his athleticism. Reports came out that he first injured his foot up to two weeks before the Auburn game. In his last 4 games, he averaged over 39 MPG and still shot 64.5% from three-point range on 31 attempts. This shows his dedication to the sport by playing through the pain in his foot.

Best fit:

Orlando:

Nesmith would be a great fit for the Orlando Magic. Orlando finished 23rd in made 3’s and 25th in 3-point percentage this past season. He would fit in well initially as a spark plug off the bench behind Fournier and Gordon. Gordon is also an injury risk, having only played 80 games once in his first six years. This team is heavy on players who operate within the arc, with ten players on the roster averaging under 1.5 3 pointers per game. Nesmith plays within his role offensively, and he would act as a 3-point specialist for this Orlando team. This roster needs shooting on it, and Nesmith can provide that.

Philadelphia:

Philadelphia needs volume shooting. They finished the regular season with an average 3-point percentage as a team with 36.2%. Their issue was that they were 19th in made 3’s. If you watch the team, they do not pass the eye test as a shooting team. The 76ers also lack depth on the wing. Milton, Richardson, Smith, and Thybulle missed a combined 115 games this season at the wing. Nesmith can add value immediately as a scorer in a role such as Redick’s role in the 2018 season.

Minnesota:

Nesmith could see immediate playing time in Minnesota. This team is weak at the wing after trading away Covington, with only Beasley, Okogie, and Culver left at the 2 and 3. They all combined to make 5.2 3 pointers per game, while Nesmith made 4.3 3 pointers per game by himself in his last season at Vanderbilt. Nesmith can contribute value immediately to this organization. This is a rebuilding team who is trying to find talent. They have the point guard and center covered, but just need to find depth on the wing.

New Orleans:

Nesmith can learn under one of the best moving shooters of all time in JJ Redick in New Orleans. Redick’s contract ends after the 2021 season, leaving a hole for Nesmith to fill. Going forward, Zion, Lonzo, and Hayes will all need shooters around them to be successful. Nesmith is a step toward finding a balanced lineup to open up the paint for these players to operate. Defensively, they are building a team with length, and Nesmith fits the bill perfectly as a wing. He doesn’t need to guard the best guard every night as Jrue and Lonzo are solid contributors on the defensive end.

Projection:

Ceiling:

Nesmith keeps up his combination of high volume and efficiency at the NBA level. His 3-point percentage is well above 40 percent for his whole career. This alone allows Nesmith to play over a decade in the league. He is a solid screener and uses that in pick and pop sets along with running flex screen sets into pindowns frequently. He adds a passable driving ability to his game, allowing him to attack the basket and draw contact. He still remains a player who only creates off the dribble in closeouts and doesn’t really develop an isolation game. As a passer, he gets his assist to turnover ratio above 1:1 and starts to see more advanced reads like cross court passes and backdoor cutters when driving. Nesmith plays within his game and becomes an offensive player within the mold of Klay Thompson.

On the defensive end, Nesmith is a menace off the ball. He sees passing lanes very well and has a few seasons with over 100 steals. He consistently uses his positioning to cut off players and blow up off-ball screening actions. His length allows him to challenge shots at the rim as a wing. He never becomes an elite shot blocker, but his high motor helps him become a real deterrent. He may run into foul trouble at times, but it is typically on effort plays. He doesn’t develop into a defensive stopper on the ball, but is passable.

Floor:

Nesmith plays through multiple contracts in the league due to his ability to be a high-volume shooter. His efficiency is only average due to his poor shot selection. He doesn’t create off the dribble, making him a one-dimensional player. He still has a negative assist to turnover ratio for the majority of his career. He misses some time with injuries related to his stress fracture. He is a streaky scorer with some solid moments in his career. His passing vision doesn’t exceed basic reads such as swings and same side kick outs in the P&R.

Defensively, Nesmith compensates for most of his inefficiencies with his length. He has a negative defensive rating for most of his career, but still passes the eye test. His P&R coverage is weak due to his poor defensive footwork. When playing off the ball, he gets hit by screens and loses his man in movement often due to a lack of athleticism and constant ball watching.


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