The New York Knicks need shooting and stability at small forward. Enter Aaron Nesmith, who may be the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft.
The New York Knicks have gone from a team that was ahead of its time to one that can’t seem to catch up with its era. Since setting an NBA record for three-point field goals made in 2012-13, it’s consistently ranked in the bottom third of the league in that same statistic.
Thankfully for Leon Rose and the Knicks, there’s a prospect who could push the team towards remedying the glaring flaw: Aaron Nesmith.
Nesmith may not be a household name, but there’s a fair case to be made that he should be. He starred for the Vanderbilt Commodores in 2018-19 and 2019-20, showcasing what may be the best shooting touch of any player in the 2020 NBA Draft.
That has to appeal to a Knicks team that saw a grand total of zero players who finished the season on the roster shoot better than 36.2 percent from distance.
The necessary context here is that Nesmith suffered a season-ending right foot injury in 2019-20. As such, the sample size for evaluation has been dramatically decreased, and the fear of a future reinjury will be present in the minds of every front office.
Assuming Nesmith is given a clean bill of health by the Knicks’ medical team, however, he could be the answer for a team in need of his abilities.
Aaron Nesmith is an intriguing prospect for the New York Knicks
Nesmith shot just 33.7 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman, but that number is rather misleading. He converted 59 three-point field goals in 32 games played, and started the season 19-of-63—good for 30.2 percent—through 15 appearances.
He shot 35.7 percent from thereon out, when Vanderbilt went through an SEC conference schedule that included a number of ranked opponents.
It’s also worth noting that Nesmith shot 82.5 percent from the free-throw line as a freshman—a mark he matched identically in 2019-20. That doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be proficient from distance, but New York desperately needs to improve its efficiency at the line.
The Knicks rank dead last in free throw percentage in 2019-20, converting just 69.4 percent of their attempts—making them the only team below 70 percent.
As for the three-ball, Nesmith found his form in 2019-20. He buried 60 three-point field goals in just 14 appearances, shooting an astonishing 60-of-115 from beyond the arc during those outings—or, in more impressive terms, 52.2 percent.
That includes a duel with fellow projected lottery pick Isaac Okoro of the Auburn Tigers, when Nesmith scored 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range.
By playing Nesmith alongside RJ Barrett, the Knicks would have a 2-3 combination that includes one downhill finisher and one three-point marksman. That’s a proven formula across the NBA, as well as a unique opportunity for New York to catch up to the competition stylistically.
The key to them playing alongside one another is the fact that Nesmith stands at 6’6″ with a near 7’0″ wingspan—meaning he has the physical tools to defend either wing position.
It’s also worth noting that the Knicks are likely to enter the NBA Draft with a selection outside of the top five. The lottery could change this, but New York has the sixth-worst record in the NBA and may thus find itself without an opportunity to select one of the bigger names.
Thankfully, Nesmith represents the relatively deep class of prospects who may or may not become All-Stars, but can be impact players for a potential contender.
Nesmith has the size and length to be a high-quality defender, as well as the shooting ability to stay on the floor in any situation. He’s regarded as a leader at Vanderbilt, and could help the locker room in New York because of that.
The untapped potential as a shot creator offers even more reason for intrigue, but bottoming out as a 3-and-D wing who can play big minutes would still make him a solid selection.
The New York Knicks have other options, but Aaron Nesmith should be near the top of the list.