Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospects: Aaron Nesmith
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA Draft is one week away and a slightly clearer picture is beginning to emerge on who will and who will not be available late in the first round when the Utah Jazz are selecting. The Jazz own the 23rd pick in what projects to be a relatively strong crop of players expected to be available after the lottery. That group of players includes Aaron Nesmith, the sophomore guard out of Vanderbilt.
The Jazz own just one pick in the upcoming draft, having traded away their second-round pick in exchange for Kyle Korver in 2018.
Aaron Nesmith: 6’6, 215 lbs Wing – Vanderbilt
23 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 51% FG/52% 3p/82% FT
Aaron Nesmith is without question one of, if not the best shooter in the draft. The Vanderbilt guard knocked down an unimaginable 52 percent of his threes during his final season in college on a staggering 8.2 attempts per game.
Not only does Nesmith’s shooting percentage jump off the page, it passes the eye test when watching him play. The net barely moves on Nesmith’s makes which felt almost automatic, especially when open.
Better yet, the wing showed he was comfortable shooting off motion, running off pin downs, and coming off curls for quick release threes. Nesmith really has a perimeter game well suited to succeed in the modern NBA.
Quick segment from our 30-minute film session with projected lottery pick, Aaron Nesmith. The Charleston native is in line to become the next South Carolina success story, joining Zion, Ja Morant, Khris Middleton, etc in the NBA. The 6-6 Nesmith shot 41% from 3 in 46 NCAA games. pic.twitter.com/MH56s23QpD
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) April 22, 2020
At 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan, Nesmith also possesses ideal NBA size for the modern NBA wing and is much bigger than traditional knockdown college shooting specialists.
The Vanderbilt product shows good defensive instincts off the ball, using his size to fill open space on defense while recognizing his own assignment. Nesmith has adequate foot speed to team with his willingness to compete to project as a capable defender at the NBA level.
Though he’s far from the best athlete in the draft, he easily finishes above the rim in transition and could see his ability to attack the rim improve as he gets stronger.
While there’s no question Nesmith is an elite shooter, much of his damage as a sophomore was done before Vanderbilt entered the heart of their season against fellow SEC competition. Nesmith’s season was cut short after it was revealed he had stress fractures in his foot after 14 games.
How would the sophomore’s numbers look had he played a full season against better competition? As a freshman, Nesmith shot just 38 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three for the season.
For a clearer picture, throughout his entire college career, Nesmith averaged 14.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while connecting on 44 percent of his shots from the floor and 41 percent from the three-point line. While those numbers are still very strong, they don’t pop off the stat sheet quite as well as his 23 point average with a 50+ percent three-point success rate as a sophomore.
@VandyMBB Aaron Nesmith translate to the NBA—easily. But he hasn’t played since January 8. Yet he still moved up in the mock @NBADraft an average of 15 spots since then. It’s that kind of draft. 🏀😉 pic.twitter.com/yR9NVEK1wO
— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) August 20, 2020
While Nesmith is an elite shooter, the rest of his offensive game will require development if he wants to serve as more than just a three-point threat. The wing struggles to put the ball on the floor and doesn’t create many shots of his own off the dribble. He can post up smaller guards, but won’t get that opportunity often in the NBA.
Considering his incredible shooting numbers and the gravity he has on the floor, Nesmith should have averaged more than 0.9 assists as a sophomore as defenses rotated to take away his three-point shooting. He will have to prove he’s more willing to move the ball around the perimeter in the NBA, especially if his three-point shooting dips below 40 percent.
Despite his ability to finish above the rim in transition, Nesmith struggles to leap in the halfcourt, regularly throwing up difficult shots below the rim when attacking the basket. That can improve by getting stronger and working on his handle and footwork, but it was a struggle even against lesser competition in college.
— Vanderbilt Men's Basketball (@VandyMBB) November 12, 2019
Adding strength will aid him on the defensive end where he lacks perfect footwork and often has to chase his man off the dribble. He won’t ever be the quickest defender, but his size will help in the NBA.
Foot injuries are always scary. Though there doesn’t seem to be much conversation about Nesmith being red-flagged by any teams in the draft, his health will be a question mark once he reaches the next level.
How Does Nesmith Fit with the Jazz in the Draft?
With Joe Ingles entering the back half of his career and questions about Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley’s long term future on the roster, adding a player like Nesmith who can operate on the perimeter would give the Jazz depth in case of serious decline or a sudden departure.
The Jazz were one of the league’s top three-point shooting teams thanks in large part to coach Quin Snyder’s offensive system which generates a ton of open looks. Even if Nesmith isn’t the 52 percent three-point shooter he showed as a sophomore, the number of good looks he would get alongside Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert would keep his efficiency high.
ICYMI – Aaron Nesmith was on 🔥 last week.
— Vanderbilt Men's Basketball (@VandyMBB) February 18, 2019
The Jazz lacked length and defensive versatility on the perimeter in the postseason and could use another player to aid and relieve Royce O’Neale against some of the better wings in the NBA.
Nesmith could stand to improve as a playmaker, and wouldn’t offer much the Jazz much in that area if Ingles does see a steep drop off, but his proficiency as a three-point shooter should make up for some of his weaknesses.
Most mock drafts have Nesmith projected to go in the late lottery to late teens, out of the Jazz range, but he owns the type of physical makeup and skillset the team’s front office tends to target in the draft.
Additional Prospect Breakdowns:
Utah Jazz Scoreboard
Utah Jazz Team Leaders
Utah Jazz Standings