The San Antonio Spurs secured the 11th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft two weeks ago, and they will now have an abundance of time on their hands to examine the plethora of enticing prospects available to them.
While fans dreamed of drafting Deni Avdija earlier this season, his stock has skyrocketed, and he’ll likely be off the board before PATFO get a chance to add the Israeli phenom to their collection of young talent.
A class full of role players may not seem exciting, but coming away with an immediate contributor on draft day will be crucial for the Silver and Black if they want to rejoin the postseason festivities in 2021.
Aaron Nesmith | Vanderbilt | Sophomore | Wing |
Weight: 213 lbs
2020 Stats (14 GP)
Per Game: 23.0 PPG/4.9 RPG/0.9 APG/1.4 SPG/0.9 BPG
Per 36: 23.2 PPG/4.9 RPG/0.9 APG/1.4 SPG/0.9 BPG
Shooting Splits: .512 FG%/.522 3P%/.825 FT%
Aaron Nesmith is one of the most pro-ready prospects in the 2020 Draft and a player who projects to fill a floor-spacing role at an elite level in the NBA. He is among the older lottery talents in this class, and though a stress fracture in his right foot cut his spectacular sophomore season short, he showed plenty of room for growth. Not only did de double his scoring production from year one to year two at Vandy, but he did so while maintaining 51/52/83 shooting splits in just six more minutes per game.
Three-point shooting is easily his most translatable skill heading into the NBA, and his ability to knock down the long-ball in a variety of sets and familiarity with advanced schemes make him a likely day one contributor. While he could work on getting his shot off quicker, the six-six wing has excellent balance, solid footwork, a smooth form, and a high release point. Whether standstill, in motion, or off the bounce, Nesmith is about as deadly a shooter as they come, and contests and closeouts hardly seem to faze him.
Aaron might be the best player in this class at moving without the ball, and he constantly relocates around the perimeter in search of open shots. He reads defenders well and utilizes screens to perfection to create space. Although he doesn’t look to overpower smaller players with his sturdy frame as often as he should, Nesmith uses a variety of pump fakes, jab steps, stepbacks, sidesteps, and 1-2 dribble pull-ups to free himself of defenders, and his motor runs high on almost every offensive possession.
Many positives come with a player of Nesmith’s skill set, but there are a few areas in which the sophomore forward is sorely lacking. While he isn’t a ball stopper, he provides next to nothing as a playmaker. Aaron averaged under an assist per game despite a 26.3% usage percentage, and his tendency to get tunnel vision when driving left several points on the board for wide-open teammates and led to a handful of awkward shot attempts at the rim. That flaw, combined with a loose handle and a notable dependence on his dominant hand, accounted for the majority of his turnovers.
An average first step, poor balance and explosiveness, minimal touch, and little to no dribbling creativity made it difficult for Aaron to both get to and finish at the rim. Nesmith had more shots blocked in the restricted area than dunks during his time at Vanderbilt, and his predictability as a straight-line driver, coupled with his inability to adjust on the fly, left him vulnerable to committing offensive fouls. He isn’t someone who forecasts as a frequent free throw shooter at the next level, though he isn’t afraid of contact, and he will look to put back his misses near the basket regardless of what his low offensive rebounding numbers suggest.
Nesmith is one of the more underrated team defenders in the 2020 Draft Class, and his potential to guard multiple positions could make him a worthwhile addition to the Spurs versatile young core. He displayed great defensive awareness at Vanderbilt, consistently making the correct rotations and showing off impeccable timing and instincts as a help-side defender. Although he occasionally got caught ball-watching, his motor and tenacity kept him in plays more times than not.
Much like the previous prospect we detailed, Aaron isn’t much of a gambler, though he did exhibit marked improvement as a defensive playmaker in the passing lanes. He put his six-ten wingspan and active hands to good use, coming up with deflections when the ball was in the area, and he doubled his steals per game from a season ago. Nesmith also tallied roughly one block per game, chasing down layups from behind, sliding into position to contest shots without fouling, and proving he no fear meeting anyone at the rim.
While Nesmith will undoubtedly be a serviceable team defender, there are doubts as to his one-on-one capabilities. Decent foot speed, below average lateral quickness, limited change of direction, and hints of flat feet will leave him open to being exposed in switches by quicker guards. He isn’t someone I worry about teams targeting every time down the floor, and even when he finds himself beat off the dribble, the 20-year-old forward works hard to get back into the play. Bruising big men will bowl through Aaron with relative ease, but considering the NBA has continued to go smaller, this isn’t a legitimate concern for me.
His footwork was admittedly tough to analyze given Vanderbilt schemed to deny everything down the middle, which often left him shading ball handlers to one side or the other. He didn’t always navigate screens well, and his pick-and-roll communication wasn’t sound, but there are enough positives to convince me Nesmith will be a plus defender with once he gets into the league. He closes out under control, stunts and recovers beautifully, and his defensive rebounding is encouraging for someone his size.
To check out more potential 2020 draft targets, click here.