Full Offseason ‘Made a Big Difference’ for Nesmith Entering Year 2
Aaron Nesmith suited up for his first NBA preseason game on Dec. 15, 2020, less than one month after being drafted by the Boston Celtics. Without an offseason or Summer League experience to help him develop, he and his fellow draftees found themselves far less prepared than any other draft class in recent memory.
But now, with a nearly-full regular season, postseason, offseason, and training camp all under his belt, Nesmith will enter his second preseason opener Monday night with an entirely new level of readiness and confidence.
“Having a regular offseason has made a big difference,” the 21-year-old wing said at shootaround Monday morning prior to Boston’s exhibition match against the Orlando Magic at TD Garden. “Just being more prepared, more relaxed, and knowing what to expect.”
Such was not the case for Nesmith entering Year 1 given the atypical circumstances of last season. After getting a crash course on the Celtics' system, he was thrown into the fire. And on top of that, he hadn’t played a game of competitive basketball in nearly a year after missing the last half of his sophomore season at Vanderbilt due to a foot injury.
As a result, Nesmith had somewhat of a slow start and couldn’t carve out a role right off the bat. He registered 26 DNPs through the first 58 games of the season, and in his 32 appearances, he averaged 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 36.5 percent from the field, 31.9 percent from 3-point range, and 68.8 percent from the free-throw line.
However, Nesmith was eventually able to overcome his inconsistent minutes by putting forth a consistent work ethic, which enabled him to become a regular contributor off the bench by the season’s end.
In his last 14 games of the regular season, he put up 8.2 PPG and 4.3 RPG, while shooting a remarkable 52.4 percent from the field, 46.2 percent from deep, and 91.7 percent from the foul line.
Nesmith’s strong finish to the 2020-21 campaign set the tone for what would be a successful introduction to the Summer League. He was the team's leading scorer and rebounder in Las Vegas, as he averaged 17.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from long range.
The hope for Nesmith is that he can carry his summer success into the fall.
"Just got to focus on my role and continue to work on my role, whatever the team needs me to do,” the 6-foot-5 wing said. “And that’s making plays off the ball, being a hustler, diving on loose balls, getting offensive rebounds, and on the defensive side, just doing all the little things that help games that don’t necessarily splash out on the stat sheet.”
Nesmith’s role also includes being a knockdown shooter, so he’s been working on all sorts of situational shooting drills this offseason.
“My job’s to come off and just absolutely make shots immediately, so I have to practice that way,” Nesmith said. “I have to practice with a hand in my face, I have to practice running off screens 100 percent. That's what I’m going to get in the game and if I don't practice that way, I won’t be able to make them in the game.”
Nesmith is awaiting the opportunity to finally getting into the game Monday night to show off how far he has come since last season.
“It’s just exciting, the beginning of Year 2,” he said. “I’ve been looking forward to it since last year ended, so just kind of looking at it like any other game and just excited to get started.”
Getting started should go a bit smoother for Nesmith this time around now that he’s had a lengthy offseason to prepare.