The Orlando Magic’s need for shooting should have them focused there in the NBA Draft. There may be no surer bet than Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith.
The Orlando Magic will be drafting 15th in the first round when the NBA Draft takes place Nov. 18. While this is far from the strongest draft class in recent memory, there are ample opportunities for Orlando to find a keeper that can hopefully contribute immediately and eventually become an all-star.
Even outside of the lottery, there were promising rookies drafted later than Orlando picked now. Archetypes of this concept include Brandon Clarke of the Memphis Grizzlies and Matisse Thybulle of the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019, and Donte DiVincenzo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Landry Shamet of the LA Clippers in 2018.
Orlando cannot mess this up and considering how many big men they have accrued with their recent first-round picks, it is indispensable to procure a wing who can shoot.
This is a vital pick for the Magic. And in a draft many consider to be full of quality rotation-level players in the middle — although bereft of stars at the top by most estimations.
Enter Vanderbilt Commodores sophomore Aaron Nesmith.
Nesmith, with his body measurements at 6-foot-6, is perfectly positioned to play either wing position at the next level. He definitely has the potential to be an elite wing who can serve as an adroit floor spacer.
This is something Orlando will definitely need because of losing budding wing Jonathan Issac for all of next season. Not to mention, someone who may eventually replace Evan Fournier as a starter beyond next season if his playoff woes continue.
Nesmith displayed all that versatility with Vanderbilt last year before a stress fracture in his right foot cut his season short. He averaged 23.0 points per game while shooting 52.2 percent from beyond the arc. He had a 65.9-percent effective field goal percentage and 68.5-percent true shooting percentage with his 26.3-percent usage rate for the Commodores last year.
His 82.5-percent shooting from the charity stripe suggests his shooting will translate. Even more impressive, his player efficiency rating was a top-notch 29.
He flourished last year with Jerry Stackhouse taking over as head coach. The same Stackhouse who led Raptors 905 to a G-League title and was considered one of the hottest names for a head coaching position in the NBA, including for the Orlando Magic before they hired Steve Clifford.
Nesmith made dramatic improvements from his freshman to sophomore seasons. What stands out though is his efficiency.
He does have some limitations in terms of athleticism, finishing at the rim, vertical jumping ability, passing and playmaking.
But the upside is too much to ignore.
It is unlikely he becomes a perennial all-star, but at least his floor seems relatively high where he should be a key rotation piece and even an entrenched starter if he can continue to develop and finds a good fit with his new organization.
For a team that needs help at the wings and desperately needs help on offense and on a more rudimentary level, some shooting, you cannot do much better than Nesmith in terms of a value pick.
It is unlikely that LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards or James Wiseman slip to Orlando and trading up to the top of the draft just isn’t realistic and the price tag is one the Magic will not be comfortable meeting.
So once we have conceded that concept, Orlando needs to hope Nesmith slips to them.
The injury concern might have depressed some of his value. But teams will now have the chance to meet with him in person and examine his foot injury themselves. With such a truncated and limited draft process with the players themselves, teams are likely going to look for sure things.
Nesmith, having played two years in college and displaying a strong shooting ability already with the ability to shoot on the move and off screens, seems like as much of a sure thing as he can be. At least, coming off his injury.
Two prominent mock drafts have him going before Orlando is on the clock.
CBS Sports slated him to land with the Sacramento Kings at pick number 12. Another prominent draft website NBADraft.net has him landing in the Big Easy with the New Orleans Pelicans at pick number 13 in their most recent mock draft.
Is it worth it to trade up for him, especially when he missed more than half of the season and his team finished with an 11-21 record?
Nesmith is a player worth pursuing because of the drop off in terms of potential wings who can contribute right away off the bench and even be a viable starter within a short time span.
The drop off is very steep in terms of player rankings for other wings like Jalen Smith and R.J. Hampton, neither of whom are as proficient as a shooter as Nesmith.
Nesmith can even learn from and potentially succeed Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross as a rookie at the 2-spot.
There is a clear need for his skills and his potential on the roster. He could easily fit in anywhere if his shooting translates to the NBA.