Aaron Nesmith was billed coming into the league as potentially being one of the best shooters in the 2020 draft. He lit the nets on fire in college and, honestly, everywhere except the NBA. He says it's mental, which it definitely could be. I think he isn't playing to a consistent strength. Watching Klay, watching Steph, I realized something: they both had something to fall back on when everything else went to crap. Steph is one of the best at scoring inside the arc and passing. Klay, especially before his injuries, was a terrific defender and amazing cutter. They are shooters who also have a consistent strength to smooth out the variability of their shooting. Aaron Nesmith needs something like that.
These two guys are superstars, but like the title implies, Grant Williams already did it this past year. Previously, he was supposed to be a small big, someone who played like a big man, but had the potential to move out in space or cover smaller guys. That didn't work out. He was too small to effectively guard bigs and was too slow to keep up on the perimeter with big wings. He had nothing to hang his hat on regularly. The same was true on the other end of the floor. He was fine from 3 and fine inside the paint, but never had that consistent contribution that you knew he was good for every day. So what did he do? He established an everyday tool. He cut weight so that he could better stay in front of bigger perimeter players, which is always necessary, and he learned how to hit the corner 3 on offense. Consistent, reliable. That got him minutes and he has been able to build off that all this year and had turned into a solid contributor.
Right now, Nesmith is trying to hang his hat on making tough shots. 3s on the move, contested, he is supposed to be that guy who you can't give an inch of space. That will never be consistent. Tough shots need to be be what turns an average game into a good game into a great game. It shouldn't be the entire game. He will never get the consistent minutes he wants if that is his whole game. The saddest part, to me, is that he would probably be doing better in the league if he didn't have a shooter's reputation.
Aaron Nesmith has the tools to make regular contributions even if his shot didn't go in. Athletically, he is incredible. 6'6" with a near 7 foot wingspan. His transition defense is nothing short of highlight-worthy some days. When he gets going, his raw speed and power is a little bit surprising. That is something he can rely on. However, he needs to harness it. He needs to focus on becoming a really good defender and attacker on offense. In college, even though 60% of his shots were 3s, he still had a free throw rate of 30.7%. For NBA context, Jayson Tatum was right around that free throw rate this season. The upshot is that when he went to the basket, he drew a surprisingly high number of fouls. This doesn't seem incredibly out of his grasp. Learn defensive discipline. Play off-ball with the intent to get to the rim. That feels like something he can do.
Sometimes, I feel the scouting reports get into kids' heads. They work so hard to live up to particular expectations, I feel like they can forget that they could be doing more. Grant Williams started off so clearly wanting to be a tough, heady post big who can switch a little bit. It took multiple years of that just not working at all for him to realize that he has so much more skills to offer that actually suit his body better. Aaron Nesmith was projected as a shooter. He needs to get that out of his head. Maybe it will come one day, but right now, I am seeing him try to chase a particular vision of himself while mostly ignoring another path to real NBA minutes. He has the size, speed, and athleticism to consistently contribute without the three ball. I hope he can figure that out before it is too late.