Celtics

Celtics Need More From Nesmith

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Celtics fans are in love with Payton Pritchard.

And rightfully so. It has only been 12 games into the season, but the 26th pick seems to be the steal of the draft so far. What’s mind-boggling, though, are his splits as a rookie. Pritchard is on pace to join the exclusive 50/40/90 club. It’s plenty early, though, and it won’t be easy to maintain this track.

Regardless, he has provided the C’s with a reliable backup point guard who can execute the pick-and-roll while creating his own shot when needed. Understandably, the hype for Pritchard is at an all-time high.

Pritchard Paying Dividends Earlier Than Anticipated

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The Sniper Boston Needs

Pritchard’s performance has vastly overshadowed Celtics lottery pick, Aaron Nesmith. Nesmith was expected to be inserted immediately into the wing rotation with Romeo Langford out to start the season. At 6’5 with an insane 6’10 wingspan, Nesmith provides the C’s with a rangy defender to take pressure off Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But what’s truly impressive about the Vanderbilt product is his shot.

Nesmith is a sniper. He can shoot off the catch. Off the dribble. Off screens. Simply put, Nesmith can shoot the lights out. He even has the step-back three which has become so prevalent in today’s league. In his last season at Vanderbilt, he shot a staggering 51.2% from three on 8.2 attempts per game. To put that in perspective, Nesmith launched more triples per game in college than J.J. Redick did in his entire NBA career. He earned his coveted spot as a lottery pick by living up to the prototypical 3&D wing NBA teams can’t get enough of.

The Struggling Start

The potential is still there, however. With his length and shooting ability, he can be an instant contributor off Boston’s bench. While Pritchard has fans drooling, Nesmith is averaging just 2.6 points (21.7% FG, 18.8% 3PT) over 13.2 minutes per game. Though the shot hasn’t been falling yet, Nesmith has been giving tremendous effort on the defensive end as he continues to learn the team’s defense.

Before the December 30th blowout win over Memphis, Brad Stevens commented on Nesmith’s lack of playing time. “Obviously, you can only play five guys at a time. We got several guys that are high-minute players at [Nesmith’s] position. Very often it’s hard to crack when you’re in an eight or nine-man rotation.”

Lack of Experience the Issue?

Perhaps the reason Nesmith has struggled to start his NBA career is due to the cancellation of Summer League. Most lottery picks during normal seasons would be able to play high minutes against NBA-level talent in that setting. They’re often heavily featured in the offense and play under the team’s coaching staff.

But due to the pandemic and shortened season, Nesmith was tossed into the fire immediately. Compared to Pritchard, who played four years in college, Nesmith only played two. Celtics fans forget, but Pritchard as a rookie is older than Jayson Tatum, who is in his fourth season. Maybe some more time of physical growth and experience is what Nesmith needs to get going.

Stevens sure believes so.

“[Nesmith] is doing everything that he needs to do. He’s working really hard. He’s a guy that does not have the same level of experience as others but will catch up quickly because of his work ethic, his personality, who he is and everything else. The biggest key for him is just stay upbeat. He’ll get plenty of opportunities as this season goes along and whether that happens (Dec. 30th vs. Memphis), whether that happens down the road, I have no doubt that he’ll be ready.”

In a season like no other, there is bound to be opportunities for Nesmith to show Boston fans what he can do. COVID-19 has just decimated the Celtics roster and forced postponements of numerous games around the league. Nesmith would’ve seen starter minutes if the C’s had enough players to play, especially with Tatum and Jaylen Brown out. It seems this season will be the year of the “COVID-19 – DNP”. Players will be in and out of lineups for weeks at a time.

Aaron Nesmith’s opportunity can come at a minutes notice and he must be ready to prove his worth.

Follow us on Twitter @CelticsLead for the latest Celtics news and insight. 

About Ahmed Warfa

A senior at the University of Miami from Boston, Massachusetts. Always grew up a Boston sports fan and want to continue my career covering my hometown Celtics.

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