Nesmith, Pritchard Hope to Impact C’s With Shooting, Competitive Spirit
BOSTON – One week prior to being selected by the Boston Celtics in the 2020 NBA Draft, Aaron Nesmith already had green running through his mind.
Last Wednesday, during a pre-Draft Zoom call with the media members from across the country, the 6-foot-6 Vanderbilt product was asked out of the blue whether he saw a potential fit with the Celtics, to which he lit up and replied: “That team has a very bright future and I think I could step right in and make life easier for guys like Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, et cetera. Just giving those guys more space and more room to operate I think is going to really help elevate their game and help make life easier.”
Little did Nesmith know at that moment that his dream would soon become reality.
On Wednesday night, the Nesmith family gathered around a television to take part in the virtual Draft, for which Aaron dressed fittingly in a green plaid suit. At 9:30 p.m., commissioner Adam Silver emerged onto the screen and made the announcement that would change the 21-year-old wing's life: “With the 14th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics select Aaron Nesmith from Vanderbilt University.”
For a moment, Nesmith simply stared at the TV in shock, before erupting into tears of joy and collapsing into his father's chest.
“It’s a dream come true,” he told ESPN’s Malika Andrews shortly after the announcement. “Every kid dreams of this moment since they’re like eight years old.”
Nesmith was one of three players selected by the Celtics Wednesday night, along with 26th overall pick Payton Pritchard out of Oregon, and 47th overall pick Yam Madar out of Israel. The two first-rounders, in particular, should help Boston address one of its biggest offseason needs: shooting.
Nesmith, who described himself to his new Celtics fan base as “an absolute sniper,” shot an absurd 52.2 percent from 3-point range on 8.2 attempts through 14 games before his 2020 season was cut short due to a foot injury. Vanderbilt head coach and former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse referred to him as “one of the best shooters I’ve seen” at the collegiate level.
C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge believes such shooting ability should translate straight to the NBA level, claiming that Naismith “could come in the gym and out-shoot most of our guys right this second.”
Because of that elite shot-making ability, Nesmith reiterated that he should be able to “make life easier for the creators of the offense – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker.”
On top of that, he claims to be “a guy that is always going to be there to work hard, to earn his stripes and to do it on both sides of the floor.”
Such hard work is also what the Celtics hope to get out of Pritchard, a scrappy four-year point guard out of Oregon. The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year averaged 20.5 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game for the Ducks this past season, while earning both the Lute Olson Award as the nation’s most outstanding non-freshman, and the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard.
Pritchard, who also shot the ball well from deep at a clip of 41.5 percent, is hoping to come in and impact the team immediately with his toughness and competitive spirit.
“I can really shoot it, dribble, pass, but I think the biggest thing that I bring to the Celtics is just a competitive nature,” said the 6-foot-2 floor general. “I’m a winning-mentality type of guy that fights for everything, works for everything.”
Being a former NBA scrapper himself, Ainge developed a great fondness for Pritchard throughout the point guard's four-year tenure in Eugene, Oregon.
“He’s a guy I think can play in any system. He can play with any players,” said Ainge, who also happens to be a native of Eugene. “I love how he pushes the pace. He’ll make guys run. He’s playing with the ball in his hands. He gets the ball up the court very quickly and I think that’ll be a help to get the rest of the players up the court very quickly. He has that kind of leadership ability with the ball in his hands. He’s a fun player and I’m very excited to get him.”
While Ainge hopes to see his two first-rounders make an immediate impact, he views his second-round selection, Madar, as more of a work in progress.
“He’s a player we watched over in Israel play quite a bit, and we’ll see how it works out,” Ainge said of the 19-year-old point guard. “The plan will probably be to keep him overseas for at least another year and we’ll evaluate him from there, but we’re anxious to watch his growth and development as a player.”
The Celtics also had been scheduled to make a third first-round pick at No. 30, but Ainge opted to trade it to Memphis in exchange for future picks. His reasoning behind the move was that “we didn’t want to bring more than two rookies in this year.”
As for those two rookies, both Nesmith and Pritchard appear ready and able to contribute, with the hope of boosting the C’s this coming season with their shared combination of elite shooting and competitive spirit.