The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and the 2020 NBA Draft is now on the horizon. As of now, the draft is scheduled for November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Aaron Nesmith is among the batch of wings that might be available at No. 16 for Portland. He is an elite outside shooter with the size, strength and intelligence to potentially develop into a dynamic player on both ends of the floor.
- Height: 6’6”
- Weight: 215
- Wingspan: 6’10”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: SG
- Age: 21
- Projected draft range: 11-19
- PTS: 23.0 | Per 40: 25.8
- REB: 4.9 | Per 40: 5.4
- STL: 1.4 | Per 40: 1.6
- FG%: 51.2
- 3P%: 52.2
- FT%: 82.5
Nesmith may be the best shooter in this year’s draft. In a limited sample size, he shot a blistering 52.2 percent from deep this season en route to 23 points per game. He runs arounds screens with expertise and has the catch-and-shoot fundamentals of guys like Duncan Robinson and JJ Redick. He can also attack closeouts and knock down threes off the dribble.
Nesmith carries his understanding of how offenses flow to the defensive end. While not as athletic as several other prospects in the draft, Nesmith compensates by making timely rotations and simply getting in the way of his opponents. He doesn’t have the verticality to defend the rim nor the foot speed to defend quick guards on the perimeter, but he’s always competing to out position his assignment.
While Nesmith isn’t a ball stopper when the three-pointer’s not there, he also isn’t a playmaker. He’ll make simple reads, but he won’t always see the passing lane when scrambling defenses sell out to prevent him from shooting. And although he can attack closeouts with basic dribble moves, he doesn’t reliably get to the basket or finish through contact once there. His suspect ball handling and lack of burst hamper his ability to beat defenders off the dribble.
As I already mentioned, Nesmith isn’t a superb athlete. Quick guards will get past him on the perimeter and big forwards will back him down under the hoop. His placement and intelligence help mitigate this and makes him an off-ball positive, but opponents can pick on him as the on-ball defender.
Nesmith suffered a stress fracture in his right foot just 14 games into the shortened 2019-20 season. Therefore, take his averages with a grain of salt. He still might be the best shooter in the draft, but he isn’t making more than half of 8 three-point attempts per game over the course of a full season. That’s just unreasonable.
In those 14 contests, Vanderbilt went 8-6 against fairly weak early-season competition. They finished 11-21, going 3-15 without their best scorer for the more difficult matchups.
Nesmith’s lights out shooting make him a valuable floor spacer on any team. He’ll need to develop before making plays against scrambling defenses, as well as improve his ability to finish at the rim, to take the next step as an offensive player.
On the other end, Nesmith has the size and strength to defend some guards and wings, but not the foot speed or vertical athleticism to contain shifty ball handlers or bigger forwards. He’ll benefit any team with smart off-ball rotations but might struggle as an on-ball stopper.
The Blazers always need floor spacers to surround Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and Nesmith may be the most bona fide outside shooter available at No. 16. He can punish sagging defenders. He could also inject some movement into Portland’s iso-heavy offense by constantly running around screens and forcing a defender to chase. The possibility of a DHO between Nurkic and Nesmith should make fans drool.
Even if he can’t make plays off the dribble or get to the rim, sharing the floor with Lillard and McCollum enables him to be a shooter and a shooter only. Defensively, his wherewithal in scramble situations will no doubt benefit the lost Blazers defense, but he also isn’t a positive on-ball defender that the team needs alongside its guards.