When you watch Aaron Nesmith play right now, he looks like a completely different player. Not just offensively, but on both ends. I don't think it's crazy to suggest that he's made a legit tangible impact. You look down and see that he's suddenly shooting 38.2% from three, which is above league average. Nesmith's season has been inconsistent in terms of his actual playing time, but what's interesting is we have some signs of what we can maybe expect as he continues to have a more consistent role. With his minutes up and down it's been hard to really gauge what the hell he can bring as a player. We've seen one other sample of Nesmith getting consistent minutes. It came in the month of February
In February Nesmith was averaging around 18.4 minutes a night, and he shot 50/42% over those 9 games playing a total of 166 minutes. He wasn't shooting much, just 3.6 FGA a night, but a lot of those buckets were spot up opportunities and they were few and far between. But what it did give us was our first look at how Nesmith does with a legit, consistent 20 minutes. Now we go to this current stretch. In the month of April, he played a total of 136 minutes in those 12 games and shot 50/41%. In this smaller recent sample where he's really playing, now up to 27 minutes per game, his shooting is at 67/66%. Obviously, those numbers are not sustainable, but for me, it's more about how we're seeing Nesmith score.
Playing hard is a skill. For young guys who are role players, finding ways to score easy buckets is huge. Because Nesmith plays harder than pretty much everyone on the floor, he's finding ways to steal these points. Those opportunities present themselves when you're on the floor longer than 5 minutes. Those easy buckets give you confidence, which everyone knows translates to your shooting. As a shooter, on the season Nesmith is shooting 40.8% in catch and shoot opportunities from three. The biggest difference is now we're seeing a variety of how he's getting those catch & shoot opportunities. For a while, a lot of them looked mostly like this
There's certainly nothing wrong with these, this is why you drafted Nesmith. He's a knockdown shooter. But we're finally starting to see Brad play to more of Nesmith's strengths. Did you know he's shooting 64.3% this season coming off screens? All I've wanted is for Brad to run some sets for Nesmith just like Doc did for Ray Allen. Get him coming off screens and then right into his jumper. We saw that exact happen multiple times over these last two games. This is important for a few reasons. First, we're seeing Nesmith feel more confident putting the ball on the floor. On the season, we've seen Nesmith take 137 FGA. Of that number, 91 have been with 0 dribbles and 17 have been with 1 dribble. Some of that is mixed in with putbacks and shit, so if you look at his catch and shoot numbers you'll see 76 of his total FGA have basically been jumpers without much dribbling. If it feels like we've seen Nesmith score more off the dribble, it's because we have. He's starting to feel more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim, which brings me back to my point of using Nesmith more off screens.
Take a look at these play from the SA game. We saw this happen on multiple occasions
Notice that second one in the fourth quarter? Same set, only now we're seeing Nesmith have the confidence to put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He's more decisive. Before, he would basically stand around and either catch and shoot or immediate pass back to a teammate. Now compare that to what we saw Brad do for him last night
Look familiar? It's not a super complex set, but it's something we basically never saw Brad do with Nesmith earlier in the season. This tells me a few things. First, Brad trusts him way more to the point where they are actually running shit for Nesmith. Second, seeing Nesmith find his rhythm is not an accident. He's getting the ball in positions to succeed and now he's playing with more confidence. His decision making is getting a lot quicker because now he has actual reps to build off of and learn from.
The overall point is that with these young guys like Nesmith and Romeo, we're seeing how important it is to be patient. I know that might have been hard because of how good Payton Pritchard was right away, but just look up and down this roster. Jaylen got better as he got more comfortable and consistent minutes, same with Rob. Why can't that be true with Nesmith and Romeo? This isn't to say things can't swing the other way, they are still mostly unknowns and need to do this over a larger sample of course. But we're seeing what can happen if you're patient and actually allow these two to develop. Remember, they basically haven't had a normal offseason at any point in their careers. Romeo has played 46 career games to Nesmith's 39. Both are raw talents that have areas they need to improve on, as do any young player.
But what I do know is that Aaron Nesmith is making the most of his opportunity. These last 8 or so games will go a long way to make a case that he should crack the playoff rotation. That's a crazy sentence to even think about given where we were with him at the beginning of the year, but now that he's healthy, is playing with confidence, and Brad is actually running simple sets for him, it's made a world of difference.
Maybe it's because they are Danny Ainge draft picks, but so often you hear these kids be labeled a bust after barely playing. That will never make sense to me. It could happen, but we have no idea at this moment in time. What I do know is for everyone that was saying that shit about Nesmith to start the year is probably beginning to feel a little silly. The kid can clearly play.