I don't know about you, but I'm still pretty bummed about Jaylen Brown's season ending wrist injury. Yesterday for me was pretty much filled with doing nothing but shooting with Jaylen on 2K and then refreshing my timeline only to see more and more tweets like this
it was a long day. But at some point during the grieving process, I had this thought
maybe this is just how my brain works, but when given a giant shit sandwich like Jaylen missing the rest of the season, that doesn't mean my brain can't trick itself into finding a glimmer of positivity. Which brings me to Aaron Nesmith. We're at the point with Nesmith where he's no longer this surprise when he enters a game. He's legitimately good.
Since his regular and consistent rotation opportunity began at the end of April, we're seeing Nesmith play around 22 minutes per game while putting up 12.0/5.3/0.5/0.5 on 64.3/57.9% splits with 1.8 3PM a night in those 6 games. So why is this even relevant to the Jaylen topic? Well, Jaylen has missed 3 of those 6 games that Nesmith played including the other day against the Heat where Nesmith was once again really solid. Now that Jaylen is gone for the year, there is a real opportunity to see what Aaron Nesmith can do with a bigger role, something that is a little exciting given what we've seen from him these last few weeks.
If you look at Nesmith's on/off numbers during this stretch, it's pretty interesting
I certainly don't hate that offensive rating or AST% / TS%. Looking even deeper in these numbers I expanded my search to the entire season and found some pretty interesting nuggets. We've actually never seen Nesmith play with a group of Kemba/Smart/Tatum/Rob (or Tristan). I'm definitely excited to see what it looks like to put him around the starters for stretches over the course of the rest of the year.
While I completely understand the situations are not 100% the same, I do wonder if we'll see any sort of sped up development from guys like Nesmith (and Pritchard) by playing consistent playoff minutes early in their career. It makes me think of what happened with guys like Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Smart played 22.5 minutes a game his rookie year in the playoffs (2014-15) and put up around 9.8 points a night shooting 48%. Terry was someone who was playing around 20 minutes per game as a rookie in the playoffs back in 2016. Those early playoff reps helped his development big time. Before you knew it, just two years later he was putting up 16.5/5.3/5.7 at age 23 in his 19 playoff starts. Then there's obviously what happened with the Jays in 2018. The big thing there is they had the entire season and entire playoffs to develop, but there's no arguing that their early exposure to playoff basketball sped everything up. Why couldn't the same thing happen with Nesmith? Remember, that 2017-18 season was the first time Jaylen got legit playoff minutes after averaging just 12.6 the year before.
I'm not suggesting that Aaron Nesmith will turn into an All Star or All NBA player after one playoff run like what happened with the Jays, but I do think there is something to be gained by getting your playoff reps in as early as possible for a high potential young player.
What this Jaylen injury does is it gives Brad a chance to actually run Nesmith with the starting group in high pressure playoff situations. Given that his shot has come around and his hustle alone helps make an impact, I think it's possible we look back on this playoff run for Nesmith the same way we do for Smart, Terry, Jaylen and Tatum early in their careers. You can tell by watching the games these last few weeks that the star players are starting to trust Nesmith more, and if you think the Celts playoff chances are now killed with Jaylen being out, there's no reason to not throw Nesmith to the fire and let him soak up as much as he can.
It won't be perfect, there will probably be mistakes just like you often see with rookies going through their first playoff battles, but I can't help but be a little excited to see what Nesmith does with this newfound opportunity. It sucks that it had to happen this way, but sometimes these brutal season ending injuries can in some ways be a blessing in disguise when talking about the long term development of a young player. You would think Fournier slides into the Jaylen starting spot which means Nesmith should slide into that reserve wing spot, I mean he's certainly earned the chance.
I can understand being depressed about Jaylen, lord knows I am, but if you force yourself to find a sliver of positivity, we could have just that with more Aaron Nesmith.