Aaron Nesmith appears to be coming into his own for the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics’ first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft — No. 14 overall — has put together a solid stretch with more opportunities. The Vanderbilt product played in each of Boston’s back-to-back games, registering 17 or more minutes in consecutive contests for the first time this season.
Nesmith was an identical 3-for-5 from 3-point range against both the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday and Chicago Bulls on Monday. He contributed an early career-high 11 points in 17 minutes against the Cavs and nine points in 19 minutes the next night.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Monday how he thought the game is beginning to “slow down” for Nesmith on the offensive end.
It comes after the Boston rookie, along with all others in the Class of 2020, have been dealt a more difficult hand without a training camp or preseason.
“It’s been a journey,” Nesmith told reporters Monday, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “It’s been tough at times for sure, but just trying to expedite my learning curve and make sure I’m always locked in, always making sure I’m taking advantage of every opportunity.
“And so even in the games where I don’t play or don’t play as much, just making sure that I’m mentally locked into the things that we’re doing as a team so whenever I come in, it’s like I haven’t sat out at all.”
Nesmith has played in seven of the 16 games this season for the 10-6 Celtics. And while his shot-making ability was at an NBA level coming into the league, perhaps his biggest improvement has been on the defensive end.
“I wouldn’t point it at one thing,” Nesmith responded when asked what he was most focused on developing. “I would just tell you that it’s becoming a better basketball player. You know, working on my game as a whole. Making sure I was comfortable and just trying to make the game slow down and make it easier for me.”
Stevens expressed how he thinks Nesmith has “a chance to be a good defender,” but also came to the 21-year-old’s defense, explaining how it would be unfair to judge Nesmith on such limited reps.
“He’s actually done a pretty darn good job all the way through,” Stevens told reporters Monday. “He’s into the body. He’s tough. He’s physical. He stays in plays. He got the deflection in transition. I just think he has the chance to be a good defender and he’s worked hard at learning that.”
Any contributions that Nesmith can add for the Celtics, who enter a tough stretch with six of the next seven games on the road, certainly would be welcomed.