Scouts are generally high on the second-year wing, but see lots of room for improvement
Over the coming weeks here at CelticsBlog, we’re going to a run a series we’re calling Scout’s View. Each edition of Scout’s View will focus on a different player. CelticsBlog talked to eight current and former NBA scouts to get their opinions on various Boston players. Included will be quotes from scouts on those players’ offensive and defensive skills. As well as some overall thoughts on the player and what his role for the Celtics might be.
First up in the series is Aaron Nesmith.
Eastern Conference Scout 1: “I thought (Aaron) Nesmith was going to be a great spot-up shooter right away. We graded him out really highly in that area. He shot over 52% in his last year at Vanderbilt. That’s big-time stuff. On the move shooting, he’s not bad either. If he can develop his off-the-dribble game, he’ll shoot it better, because teams won’t be able to stay in his jersey off screens.”
Eastern Conference Scout 2: “It was a real slow start for him. He looked lost in those first few games. After missing so much time at Vanderbilt, he could have used a Summer League and a real training camp. There were games were Brad (Stevens) and the vets were pointing him where to go. But once he figured it out, he got going.
“Now, what’s really good is he eventually shot it pretty well. I think he was just below 40% for the season, right? (Note: Nesmith shot 37% on three-pointers as a rookie) Well, that’s pretty damn good. I’m not sure if he’ll ever be more than a shooter. Did he ever dribble more than once or twice? (Las) Vegas (Summer League) was encouraging though. Just making a pull-up off a couple of dribbles is a good sign. Let’s see if he can do it against real players though.”
Former Scout 1: “The surprise of his rookie year was his rebounding. I didn’t know he could do that. His timing was really good on the offensive glass. We knew he’d shoot it. He’s always been a shooter. I guess my questions now are: Can he do it off screens better? Is he a spot-up only guy? What about off the bounce? If he can do those things better, you’ve got a real player.”
Western Conference Scout 1: “I guess I don’t see what everyone else does. Sure, he shot pretty good on open ones. But he HAS to do that. Otherwise, he’s not in the league. He can’t dribble. His passing instincts are terrible. His size is fine, but he’s not some amazing leaper and he doesn’t get way up on his jumpers. Also, watch him coming off screens. He always catches the ball too low and it takes him too long to get into his shots. I’d be working with him catching it higher and right into his release. Good open shooter, but not much else.”
Western Conference Scout 2: “I love this kid. We all knew he would shoot, but his hustle was off the charts. Now, he’s gotta calm down a little bit or he’s going to hurt someone or himself. But give me guys I need to dial back vs guys I need to push every day!
“I thought Summer League was great for him. He showed that he can handle off screens and get to his spots. He gets good lift on his jumper, so pullups should be a big part of his game. And he hit a couple of floaters too. That’s good stuff. He’ll get a bunch of open looks playing off (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown, because you have to tilt your defense there. And (Marcus) Smart is a good playmaker. When the defense bends towards Tatum and Brown, and has to protect the rim against Al (Horford) and the (Robert) Williams kid, someone will be open. Nesmith can live there.”
Independent Analyst: “He’s never going to be an All-Star. Well, I shouldn’t say never, but it’s unlikely. But that’s ok. Did J.J. Redick ever make an All-Star team? No, right? And he’s in like year 17 or whatever. (Note: Redick has not made an All-Star team and he’s played for 15 seasons) If Nesmith can have that kind of career, then he’s gold.
“But Redick is one of the all-time greats at shooting off screens. He still flies off screens, catches high, gets square and lets it rip. Nesmith has to improve at that aspect. And that’s where it gets tricky, right? Do you invest the time in improving and off-the-bounce game that might never be better than average? Or do you invest in improving his catch-and-shoot skills? Ime (Udoka) and Brad (Stevens) need to be on the same page there.”
Former Scout 2: “I always say ‘Talk to me after Year 3’ before we make a decision on a kid. Right now, Nesmith hustles. He can shoot. Can he defend enough for a 3&D player? We’ll see. I don’t see him being anything more. And I’m not sure he defends enough for that.”
Eastern Conference Scout 3: “I don’t know if he’s ever (Kyle) Korver or (J.J.) Redick where he bends the floor when he’s out there. But those two are up there with Ray Allen and Reggie Miller as the best to ever do it. So, I don’t want to get crazy either. But you can see it for him. He’s a legit 6’6’’ and that’s huge for him as a shooter. I think he gets good lift on his shot, so combine that with his size and that’s a massive advantage. People forget that Korver is like 6’7’’ and how much that helped him as a shooter.
“Nesmith has to speed up his release, especially off screens. But that will come. I don’t think he’ll ever be a pick-and-roll playmaker. But if he can take two or three dribbles and bang a pullup or floater, that’s plenty. And he has to attack closeouts better. Now, teams know he can shoot. They’ll be on him tighter this year.”
Eastern Conference Scout 1: “I was pretty surprised. We had him graded out as a slightly negative as a defender. He held his own more or less. Like every kid his age, he has to add strength. The bigger vets bullied him out of their way. And it’s not just on layups and dunks either. Watch how guys used a shoulder or hip to get him off them for jumpers.
“I did enjoy how competitive he was. If he got beat, he did what he could to get back in the play. Sometimes, that ended up in fouls, but he blocked some shots that way and impacted others too. The tools are there, but he needs to work on his body and get more experience.”
Western Conference Scout 1: “I thought Brad (Stevens) did a good job protecting him and (Payton) Pritchard as rookies. They weren’t out there during key moments without three or four good defenders with them. That will have to change as they get older. They’ll both have to hold their own.
“For Nesmith specifically, I want to see him understand where he should be. They had to position him a lot. (Marcus) Smart is one of the best in the league at communicating and he had to do a lot of that last year. Even up to putting Nesmith on the correct side to defend pick-and-roll. (Al) Horford will help him with that too. He sees everything when he’s on the backline of the defense. When Nesmith doesn’t have to think so much, his natural ability will take over. Then we’ll find out what he can really do.”
Former Scout 1: “I wasn’t sure what to expect. His college experience was so limited and Vanderbilt played a lot of junk defenses. That always makes it hard to evaluate a kid’s defense. But I thought he was competitive and worked hard. That’s good, because that’s stuff you can’t teach.
“He’s got the size and length. That’s a great starting point. Just like Brad (Stevens), Ime (Udoka) won’t play him if he can’t defend. And he’s got some of the best defenders in the league in (Marcus) Smart, (Jaylen) Brown and (Jayson) Tatum with him. And (Al) Horford will coach him up too. I bet by the end of this year, he’s a plus defender.”
Former Scout 2: “I think he has the tools and he’s competitive. I just don’t know if he’ll put it all together. His path forward is a 3&D guy. The “3” part looks better to me right now than the “D” part. I don’t like his feet. He crosses over too much as a move defender. NBA guys need a split second and tiny advantage and they’re gone.”
Western Conference Scout 2: “I’m gonna go back to the hustle here. When you hustle and compete the way he does, you’re going to make up for a lot technique and skill-wise. And I trust the Boston guys to coach up those things. I’d lock him, (Payton) Pritchard, (Romeo) Langford and even (Dennis) Schroder in a room with (Marcus) Smart and let him do work on them. Film and on-court stuff. They’ll all be better defenders because of it.”
Independent Analyst: “He hustled at Vanderbilt, but that team was never filled with talent. So, it could be hard to get a read on his defensive ability. All the signs were there, so that’s good. Seeing him translate that to the NBA was a great sign.
“I don’t think he’s ever an All-Defense guy or anything, but he’ll be fine in Boston’s scheme. I assume Ime Udoka will keep a lot of the “switch everything” tendencies Brad Stevens used when they were a good defense. And the personnel fits that. Nesmith will do fine.”
Eastern Conference Scout 2: “He’s never going to be an awesome point-of-attack defender. But I think he’ll hold up fine against most guys. I know this is more about Boston than Aaron Nesmith, but the system will help him. Remember when the Celtics were one of the best defenses in the league? And they had guys like IT (Isaiah Thomas) and Tyler Zeller playing a lot? That was because of their switching and scrambling guys. Brad (Stevens) gave Ime (Udoka) a roster that will be a switching machine. And they have a full camp to figure that out. Nesmith will be fine in that system and I bet the Celtics are a top-five defense this year.”
Eastern Conference Scout 1: “We had him as a positive offensively and a slight negative defensively. We called him a “3-&-maybe-D” guy. I think he’ll definitely be at least a traditional 3&D guy now. Mostly because he competes so hard. And the rest of that team will cover for him when necessary. He’ll be a 20-minute a night rotation guy.”
Eastern Conference Scout 2: “He’s better than Romeo Langford and I bet he’s already past him in the pecking order for the Celtics. He can just do more stuff, and there is more upside. And he’s not hurt every other week. I bet he’s the top wing off the bench and plays at least 25 minutes a night.”
Eastern Conference Scout 3: “He’s a rotation guy. It’ll get messy at times, especially if he has to handle the ball. But 15-20 minutes a night on the wing is good for his second season.”
Western Conference Scout 1: “Because he can shoot and that team needs shooting, I bet he plays a lot. If (Dennis) Schroder will pass, Nesmith will get open shots. But I’m not sure that happens. And with the starters, he’s like the seventh option behind (Jayson) Tatum, (Jaylen) Brown, Tatum again, Brown again, then (Marcus) Smart and (Al) Horford. If he makes shots, great. If not, he won’t play much.”
Western Conference Scout 2: “He’ll be a favorite of (Ime) Udoka’s because of his hustle. That’s how he’ll get on the floor. But he’ll stay because of his shooting. If he can do something against hard closeouts, then you’ve got a double-digit scoring threat off the bench.”
Former Scout 1: “If he defends, he’ll be fine. He’ll play a lot. If not, he won’t play and they’ll keep trying other guys. I bet he starts out with 20 minutes a night off the bench. If he defends enough, and makes open shots, that role will grow.”
Former Scout 2: “I keep seeing that he could start. That would be a mess. Say he starts and you’re playing the Nets, Boston will be down early because KD (Kevin Durant), Kyrie (Irving) and (James) Harden will go after him relentlessly. He has to come off the bench and get protected matchup-wise. Otherwise, his confidence will get destroyed and that will impact his shot. 10-15 minutes a night off the bench would be good enough for now.”
Independent Analyst: “20 minutes a night off the bench and growing into becoming a starter eventually should be the goal for this year. I bet by the end of the year, he’s better and playing more than Josh Richardson. I’ve got him way ahead of Romeo Langford too. If he can hold up defensively and hit a shot or two per game off the dribble, he’ll be a key rotation guy. Probably not a starter this year, but when guys are out, Ime Udoka can put him in there and feel good about it.”