Spurs Draft: Aaron Nesmith brings the hot hand to San Antonio

LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 12: Aaron Nesmith #24 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrates in the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on January 12, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 12: Aaron Nesmith #24 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrates in the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on January 12, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Aaron Nesmith is the premier sharpshooter in the draft class and needs to be on the San Antonio Spurs radar if he’s not already

Although some NBA facilities have begun opening their doors to allow players to train, we are still no closer to a conclusive plan regarding when or if the San Antonio Spurs and the rest of the league might return to action.

The league has already announced the postponement of the NBA Combine and Draft Lottery, both of which were scheduled for May, and many assume a decision to push back the 2020 NBA Draft will be the next domino to fall.

Whether the draft occurs in August, September, or later, one prospect the San Antonio Spurs should have on their radar is the 3-point specialist from Vanderbilt, Aaron Nesmith.

The Charleston, SC, native pieced together a solid freshman campaign but truly blossomed during his second season under the tutelage of first-year college coach and NBA vet Jerry Stackhouse.

Unfortunately, Nesmith’s breakout year was cut short after he suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for much of the season. However, through 14 games the 6’6″ forward averaged 23 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, connecting on 4.3 three-pointers while shooting at an absurd 52.2 percent clip from downtown.

While teams cannot expect Nesmith to continue at that blistering pace at the next level, the shooting prowess he demonstrated during his time at Vandy will likely vault him into lottery consideration.

At the time the season was suspended San Antonio ranked 27th in the league in 3-pointers made. As such, selecting a bonafide sniper such as Nesmith should be up for consideration as he translates as a plug-and-play prospect who can help the roster immediately.

Offensively, the Vandy swingman has a very smooth shot with a quick-trigger release, solid fluidity, and mechanics. He studies players such as CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, analyzing their styles and devising ways to incorporate their side-steps and step-back maneuvers in his own game.

Nesmith has exhibited good instincts and moves effectively off-ball like other high IQ shooters such as Steph Curry and JJ Redick, who are adept at setting their own ball screens to get open. He is still working on reducing wasted motion when coming off of screens to get into his shot quicker, but it’s tough to be too critical given his production at the collegiate level.

Although his bread and butter will always be the shooting stroke, he has the potential to be more than just a spot-up shooter in the NBA. Nesmith isn’t always comfortable putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket, but he has unrated bounce and isn’t afraid to put a defender on a poster.

With his notoriety as a 3-point specialist, opponents are quick to collapse on Nesmith to prevent a long-range barrage. Incorporating more ball and head fakes to get defenders to bite and gaining confidence with the dribble-drive will open up a new wrinkle for pocket passes and other playmaking opportunities.

Given his 6’6″ frame and roughly 6’11” wingspan, I expect he’ll be able to guard 1-3 positions and he showed signs at Vanderbilt of being a disruptor on the defensive end. Despite those promising flashes during his college days, he also suffered lapses of ball-watching or getting caught flat-footed. With greater engagement and focus, he has the potential to develop into a strong two-way player.

With the Spurs likely picking in the 10-12 range, the Vandy product should be available and right at the top of their draft board. Without a preeminent talent like Zion Williamson, many pundits have dubbed this draft class as being one of the weaker groups in recent years. With that in mind, San Antonio should opt to select a prospect like Nesmith, which might be considered a slight reach given where he’s projected, over swinging for the fences with a flashier pick.

The Phoenix Suns caught a lot of flak last year when they made the decision to draft Cameron Johnson with the 11th pick when many had him pegged as a more realistic selection in the 20s.

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However, among rookies, Johnson ranks 1st in 3-point percentage (39.7%, min. 150 attempts) and has knocked down the 6th-most threes while having played nearly 700 fewer minutes than the league-leader. Point being, I believe Nesmith has the potential to follow a similar trajectory and the Spurs shouldn’t shy away from pulling the trigger on the premier marksman in this class.

This season the Spurs accounted for a total of 671 three-pointers, with the two leading shooters being Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills, who each drained 148 threes. That’s right, Forbes and Mills alone combined for roughly 44 percent of the team’s three-point production.

Forbes will hit the free-agent market this offseason and Mills will be on an expiring deal heading into the upcoming year. Mills’ age coupled with his contract situation means he could be a prime trade candidate next season. Given that potential shooting void, the impetus to draft Nesmith feels less and less like a reach.

Further, with DeMar DeRozan’s status in San Antonio still very much in flux, there’s an opportunity for Nesmith to carve out a sizable chunk of minutes and establish a role as a rookie. The addition of a defensive-minded prospect to San Antonio’s young cohort of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV foreshadows an exciting future.

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Overall, this draft class has no home run prospects and is weaker across that board than in years past. Nesmith has an NBA body and his shooting prowess is a bankable skill that can help any team that selects him. The Spurs should definitely think twice before passing up on a chance to snag him.