In two seasons with the Celtics, Aaron Nesmith struggled to solidify a role in Boston’s rotation.
But the No. 14 overall pick in 2020 got a new lease on his NBA career this offseason when the Celtics shipped him to the Indiana Pacers as part of the deal for Malcolm Brogdon.
Now on a team that doesn’t have close to the star power or depth that the Celtics possess, the 23-year-old Nesmith is getting an opportunity to showcase his skill set on a nightly basis, and Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla has noticed him making the most out of this chance.
“Aaron’s great,” Mazzulla told reporters following practice Tuesday, per CLNS Media. “He came into a situation where he had an opportunity and it was also up and down for him and I thought he handled it with great professionalism. He works really hard. I thought he played hard, and I watched a lot of film of the other team, he plays really, really hard. So, I’m really excited for the situation that he’s in. He’s taken advantage of it.”
Nesmith has started in 15 of 27 games for the Pacers and has seen his playing time double this season compared to last as he averages 22.2 minutes per game.
With the increase in time on the court, the Vanderbilt product has tallied 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest, while shooting 38.7% from beyond the arc — the best mark in his career thus far.
Nesmith was always known as a shooter ever since he came into the NBA, but that isn’t what stands out most about his game to Mazzulla. Instead, it is what Nesmith does on the other end of the court with the reckless abandonment he plays with that impresses his former coach.
“His shooting is getting better,” Mazzulla said. “I think one of the things he doesn’t get enough credit for is his defense. A great individual defender. A great pick-and-roll defender. So, he’s really found a role there of being a great defender and bringing energy to the team.”
Nesmith will face his former team for the first time Wednesday when the 15-16 Pacers take on the Celtics, who have lost four out of their last five games, at TD Garden. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.