Without much cap space for free agency this offseason, it will be very important for the Sixers to find a key player in the upcoming draft. While the remainder of the season needs to be played out to fully decide what spot in the draft they will end up at, they are expected to land in the early 20’s in the first round. The 1st-rounder is formally the OKC Thunder’s pick which was acquired in the Markelle Fultz trade so it depends on the outcome of their season, but as it stands they would be picking in the 22nd slot. One of the biggest questions surrounding the Sixers this year has been their shooting, and the answer for this can be found in the 6’6 SG/SF out of Vanderbilt named Aaron Nesmith.
Nesmith checks every box that the Sixers should be looking at in a prospect. He is the best pure shooter in the draft and he jumps off the page as a guy that could be a perfect 3&D prospect at the NBA level. In the shortened season this year, he knocked down 3’s at an unreal 52.2% rate on 8.2 attempts per game while leading the SEC with 23 points per game. He is comfortable shooting on the move and is extremely effective coming off of a screen. Nesmith is a phenomenal floor-spacer who is at his best catching and shooting which makes him a great match for the Sixers’ needs.
Defensively, Nesmith has also proved to be solid. He has an NBA frame at 6’6 and 213 pounds. While he is not a particularly great athlete, he has a fairly high basketball IQ and effectively gets into passing lanes- as proven by his 1.4 steals per game. The ability to shoot on the move is his greatest asset as he does that better than any player than the draft. This would be extremely beneficial to Ben Simmons in both the halfcourt and in transition as Nesmith also is effective getting out on the break. While the #24 jersey may play a part in it, his shot and style of play are strikingly similar to what Buddy Hield, who has been a rumored interest of the Sixers, showed in his time at Oklahoma.
Nesmith made major strides in his game as a sophomore this year, and there are questions regarding if this was attainable for the whole season. He played just 14 games this year due to a foot injury and the season being cut short, but all his statistical numbers were up from his freshman year. He played more minutes, put up more shots, and scored at a higher rate both from the field and from 3-point range this season. His shot selection and comfortability in the offense is a huge reason for this and while he will not be able to continue shooting 52% from deep in the NBA, that number should be expected to be higher than the 34% he shot his freshman year. Nesmith has had slight turnover problems and is not a great playmaker, but has no major red flags in his game beyond this.
The biggest issue with Nesmith comes with how to land him in the draft. In most mock drafts he falls in the 12-16 range, but he has the potential to climb a little higher than that as the draft process plays out. Unless he ends up sliding due to concerns about the stress fracture in his foot that caused him to miss time this year, the Sixers will likely need to move up to get him. The Sixers will have 4 second-round picks that could come into play for this. Based on the Tankethon projections, the picks are expected to be the 34th, 36th, 49th, and 59th overall picks. Finding the right trade partner will not be an easy task and while the 34 and 36 picks should hold some value, Elton Brand may have to dig deeper in his bag of assets than that to make a deal happen.
The Sixers may very well sit at 22 (or wherever that pick ends up) and find a player that could still help the team. But moving up and getting their hands on a guy that can be an immediate impact player like Aaron Nesmith could go a long way in pushing the team over the edge. He can play a similar role in the offense to what JJ Reddick brought to the team as his ability to move without the ball in order to set himself up for a shot is extremely advanced. Nesmith could be a huge asset in spacing the floor and for the rest of the offense and be the deadeye from deep that the team is currently missing. Finding the right trade partner will be a challenge, but if Elton Brand can find a way to make Aaron Nesmith a Sixer, he should not hesitate to pull the trigger.
Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports