After an up and down rookie season, Boston Celtics sophomore wing Aaron Nesmith has been tearing it up in Las Vegas. Along with fellow 2020 draft pick Payton Pritchard, Nesmith has been a driving force of the Celtics dominating Summer League trip.
Through Boston’s four undefeated games, Nesmith is putting up 18.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, while shooting 39 percent on a hefty seven three-point attempts per game. His best performance to date was his 33-point outing in their second game, in only 21 minutes of play.
Yes, as last year’s 14th pick, the numbers Nesmith is putting up were almost to be expected going against the level of talent found in Summer League. After the second half of last season, when Nesmith finally carved out a somewhat consistent role, most Celtics fans had a good feeling about him going into year two. Nonetheless, it’s still a great sign to see him actually performing like this during Summer League action.
How can Nesmith impact the Boston Celtics this year?
The easiest way Nesmith can be a game changer for the C’s this year is simple: do what he did at the end of last year. From the beginning of April until the end of the season, Nesmith shot 42% from three and 50% from the field overall, along with his infectious energy that showed up on the defensive end nightly.
But this summer, Nesmith is playing with real confidence for the first time. It looks like Nesmith knows that he really belongs, and the result has been a tremendous string of outings. With a healthy offseason behind him, he has taken his play to a new level.
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Of course, Nesmith must continue his hot shooting once the regular season rolls around. While he does chip in on the defensive glass, he doesn’t offer much secondary playmaking, so his impact will be almost entirely dependent on his ability to knock down the three ball.
But after the first four games in Las Vegas, which has featured a much more diverse and difficult shot profile than Nesmith showcased last year, I fully expect that to be the case.
If the shots are falling, Nesmith should be in the starting lineup
Going into the season, the only guaranteed starters for the Boston Celtics in my eyes are the obvious choices of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The three other spots will feature at least some competition, specifically the guard slots.
While there may be a few players that are better at this point than Nesmith, I don’t see anyone that has a better fit alongside the Celtics star wing duo. His shooting and energy just make him too valuable to that group.
With all due respect to Marcus Smart and the newly signed Dennis Schroder, starting both of them would be one of the worst shooting backcourts in the league. As for Payton Pritchard, he’s best with the ball in his hands, something that likely won’t happen in a starting lineup with Tatum, Brown, and one of Smart or Schroder.
That leaves Aaron Nesmith, who will be perfectly content to sit in the corner, sprint around off-ball screens, and splash down threes. And of course, he’ll play his trademarked chaotic defense, running around looking completely lost but getting the job done time after time. He’s the perfect fit for this starting lineup.
Last year, you could almost set your watch to the Celtics falling behind early in the game. By starting Nesmith, the Celtics could guarantee that at least one member of their starting unit would come out with his hair on fire. Why wouldn’t you want that?
Inserting Nesmith into the starting lineup just makes the most sense for the Boston Celtics at this point. His three-point shooting will open up driving lanes, not only for himself off of shot-fakes, but also for Tatum and Brown, leading to easier looks at the rim for them. Again, this is all dependent on his shots going down, but everything he’s done so far makes me think they will.
In the NBA, who finishes the game is generally much more important than who starts it. But for the Boston Celtics in 2021, putting Aaron Nesmith in a starting role could have a season defining impact, and new coach Ime Udoka would be wise to do so.