Aaron Nesmith

Atlantic Notes: Randle, Raptors, Nesmith, Harris

A major factor in the blossoming of Knicks forward Julius Randle into an All-Star has been his improved passing, contends Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Randle is averaging a career-best 5.9 APG this season.

Vorkunov credits Randle’s excellent aptitude for last-second passes, frequently distributed nanoseconds before he lands from his jumps. The extended timing is designed to attract defenders away from his passing targets. “A lot of coaches hate that,” Knicks reserve guard Derrick Rose said. “But I’m somebody [who has] been doing it for a while, too. As long as his turnover ratio isn’t greater than his assist ratio, I feel like it’s alright. He makes smart decisions. He’s delivering the ball.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors already appear to be playing with an eye towards next season as their play-in tournament odds continue to shrink, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet. One sign is the team’s willingness to experiment. To wit, head coach Nick Nurse has tried new center Khem Birch as a fast-break ball handler of late. The club is 26-38, three games behind the 10th-seeded Wizards with just eight games left to make up ground.
  • After the Jazz defeated the Raptors 106-102 yesterday, the Knicks will officially at least make the league’s play-in tournament, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. This will mark the team’s first postseason appearance since 2013.
  • Though the Celtics anticipated that rookie first-round draft pick Aaron Nesmith could be an instant contributor as a shooter, he has made more of an impact with his hustle on both ends of the floor. A. Sherrod Blakely of the Boston Sports Journal examines the disparity between Nesmith’s anticipated skill set at the next level and the reality thus far. “I’m happy for him because it seems he has found a role with those guys now,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “It’s not the role we thought it would be or the role the Celtics thought it would be, but give him credit, he’s figured out a way to get on the floor which is huge for a rookie.”
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said on Saturday that he appreciated the recent performance of Jalen Harris in limited minutes, and hopes to find more time for the rookie guard during the season’s home stretch, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports.

Celtics Rumors: Gordon, Nesmith, Smart, Langford, More

The Celtics and Nuggets continue to lead the Aaron Gordon sweepstakes, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, who reports that the Magic forward would welcome the opportunity to play for either team, or for the Trail Blazers.

While one Wednesday report suggested that Denver had taken the lead as the frontrunner to land Gordon, the Celtics continue to pursue the veteran forward, with John Collins and Harrison Barnes looking to be increasingly less likely targets, Weiss writes.

Weiss suggests that the Timberwolves appear to be falling back in the race to land Gordon, but all indications are that the Magic will continue talks right up until the deadline.

According to Weiss, the Celtics’ desire package for Gordon would be Aaron Nesmith and a first-round pick, giving Orlando the opportunity to create a sizeable traded player exception. However, the team will likely need to up that offer, either by including another first-rounder or by expanding the trade to include Marcus Smart and Evan Fournier.

Here’s more from Weiss on the Celtics:

  • While Romeo Langford was mentioned on Wednesday along with Nesmith as a candidate to be an outgoing piece in a Gordon trade, Weiss says the former Hoosiers guard doesn’t have much value due to his injury history and the fact that he was already a “polarizing” prospect entering the 2019 draft. As such, it doesn’t make much sense for the Celtics to sell low on him. Nesmith has more trade value, as Weiss notes.
  • Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye haven’t been included in any trade packages that have “advanced to a serious stage,” sources tell Weiss.
  • One league source speculated to Weiss that there’s a chance the Celtics could do something more complex involving Gordon, like sending Smart to Orlando and trading draft capital to New Orleans for Lonzo Ball. However, that sounds like a longer shot.
  • Tristan Thompson has been frequently mentioned as a trade candidate, and there’s been some frustration that his on-court impact has been modest, per Weiss. However, Thompson is close with Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker, and even if there’s been some frustration with his production, it hasn’t become “animosity” by any means.

Aaron Gordon Rumors: Trade Request, Celtics, Rockets

Asked on Tuesday about his reported trade request, Magic forward Aaron Gordon acknowledged some frustration with his situation in Orlando and admitted that frustration had “boiled over.” But when he was asked if he still wanted to be dealt, Gordon didn’t say yes, talking instead about having developed a “sense of love and community” in Orlando.

Gordon’s reluctance to confirm that he still wants to be dealt may have been genuine. According to Adrian Wojnarowski on today’s Woj & Lowe Trade Deadline Special on ESPN, Gordon made his trade request several weeks ago and has been having some “second thoughts” about it within the last 24-48 hours.

That doesn’t mean the Magic won’t still trade Gordon, but they may not approach talks with the same urgency if the 25-year-old is no longer pushing for a change of scenery.

Here’s more on Gordon:

  • The Celtics are continuing to focus their attention on Gordon, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who tweets that the odds of Boston acquiring Kings forward Harrison Barnes seem to be fading. Sacramento believes Barnes can be a key part of a playoff push next season, so they’re not feeling pressure to sell low on him now, Mannix explains.
  • Wojnarowski also said on ESPN this afternoon that the Celtics appear to be “very serious” about trying to acquire Gordon.
  • A report earlier today indicated Boston has offered at least a first-round pick and a young player. Orlando is believed to be seeking a second first-rounder. The young player in the Celtics’ offer is thought to be Aaron Nesmith or Romeo Langford, per Brian Robb of MassLive.com, who says Marcus Smart now appears unlikely to head to the Magic as part of a larger deal involving Evan Fournier.
  • While the Rockets were viewed as the possible favorites for Gordon a few days ago, those discussions “seem to have fallen apart,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on the Woj & Lowe Special today. There’s still time for that to change, but if Houston isn’t confident in its ability to re-sign Gordon when his current contract expires in 2022, the team probably won’t be enthusiastic about giving up major assets for him.

Celtics Sign Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard To Rookie Contracts

The Celtics have officially signed their two 2020 first-round picks, Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith and Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, to rookie scale contracts, the team announced today in a press release.

After playing a part-time role as a freshman, Nesmith was in the midst of a breakout sophomore year in 2019/20 before a stress fracture in his right foot brought his season to an early end in January. In 14 games (35.7 MPG), he averaged 23.0 PPG and 4.9 RPG with an impressive .512/.522/.825 shooting line. He said today that his foot is 100% healthy and that he’ll be ready for camp, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

As for Pritchard, he tested the draft waters in 2019 before returning to the Ducks for his senior season, which was the best of his college career. He averaged 20.5 PPG, 5.5 APG, and 4.3 RPG, while shooting 41.5% on three-pointers in 31 games (36.6 MPG) in 2019/20.

Nesmith, the No. 14 pick, projects to earn $16.5MM on his four-year contract, assuming he signs for the full allowable 120% of the rookie scale. The No. 26 pick, Pritchard will make $10.45MM on his four-year rookie deal.

Draft Rumors: Hayes, Nesmith, Anthony, Okongwu, Hawks, More

In his latest mock draft in advance of tonight’s event, Jeremy Woo of SI.com shares several interesting tidbits, writing that Killian Hayes is “strongly in play” for the Pistons at No. 7 and suggesting there’s some concern about Aaron Nesmith‘s injured foot, which ended his season at Vanderbilt.

Woo also hears from sources that Cole Anthony has interviewed in recent days with multiple teams outside the top 20 and that the Celtics and Spurs would be among the teams with interest in Onyeka Okongwu if he slides out of the top 10 due to his foot injury.

Woo reports that there’s “significant traction” for Devin Vassell within the Knicks‘ front office, making him a viable option at No. 8 if the team stays put. Finally, Woo says the Celtics have shown interest in Duke big man Vernon Carey Jr., who could be an option at No. 26 or No. 30.

Here’s more on the 2020 NBA draft:

  • The Hawks are currently planning to keep and use the No. 6 pick tonight, a source tells Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). That could change if Atlanta gets a surprise last-minute offer, Wasserman cautions, but for the time being, it sounds as if the team is comfortable staying put.
  • We still don’t know with any certainty which player the Timberwolves will select with the No. 1 pick tonight, but Georgia guard Anthony Edwards has emerged as the betting favorite at Las Vegas sportsbooks, writes David Purdum of ESPN.com.
  • While USC big man Onyeka Okongwu may not be ready for training camp due to a foot injury, it sounds like the issue shouldn’t impact his draft stock too significantly. One source who spoke to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link) predicted that Okongwu will still likely come off the board before the Wizards pick at No. 9.

Draft Rumors: Wolves, Edwards, Ball, P. Williams, Hawks, Knicks, More

With the 2020 NBA draft just two days away, several draft experts are publishing their final mocks of the year, nearly five months after the event was initially scheduled to take place. Jonathan Givony of ESPN, Jeremy Woo of SI.com, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report are among those who published new mock drafts today. Let’s round up a few of the key pieces of intel from those mocks…

  • Sources tell Vecenie that the Timberwolves still haven’t finalized a decision on what they’ll do with their No. 1 pick, as they expect “real” trade offers to start coming in during the next couple days. However, Givony and Woo have both heard that most teams around the NBA are operating as if the Wolves will select Anthony Edwards if they stay put.
  • LaMelo Ball‘s private workouts with teams last week were strong, according to Givony, who suggests that the Warriors were among the teams impressed by what they saw from Ball. Still, Givony and other draft experts view James Wiseman as Golden State’s most likely pick at No. 2.
  • There has been plenty of chatter about Florida State forward Patrick Williams, whose ceiling is as high as No. 4 to the Bulls, according to both Woo and Givony.
  • Opposing front offices say the Hawks (No. 6) have been the most active team in trade talks, according to Givony, who says Atlanta could push for an impact player (such as Jrue Holiday or Victor Oladipo) or trade down and pick up another young player.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Knicks (No. 8) appear to be “looking hardest” at Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro, and Kira Lewis Jr. Sources have also linked Obi Toppin to New York for some time, per Woo, though the Dayton forward is less likely to be on the board at No. 8.
  • Assuming the Suns keep the No. 10 pick, sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith is thought to be high on their list, says Wasserman.
  • While the Celtics have looked into packaging their three first-rounders (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) for a mid-lottery pick, interest in that sort of deal appears to be lukewarm, according to Woo, who says Boston may be more likely to make smaller trades with their picks.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Trail Blazers (No. 16) have expressed interest in Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski, while Vecenie says Jay Scrubb‘s name is the one he has heard linked most frequently to Portland.
  • The Bucks‘ pick at No. 24 is one to watch in trade talks as Milwaukee tries to upgrade its roster, writes Vecenie. If they keep the pick, Josh Green is among the options the Bucks are eyeing, per Wasserman.

Draft Updates: Ball, Nesmith, Green, Nnaji, Hornets, More

With one week to go until the 2020 NBA draft, we’re continuing to get conflicting information on LaMelo Ball‘s outlook. Earlier this week, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony said that most front office are operating under the assumption that Ball will be the No. 1 pick. Today, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes that league sources have begun speculating that the Timberwolves have decided to draft Ball, assuming they keep the top selection.

However, there’s still plenty of chatter pointing in another direction. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said this week during an appearance on The Jump (video link) that many of the executives he has spoken to think Ball could slide a little on draft night. Jeremy Woo of SI.com has heard similar whispers, writing that there’s an increasing belief that Ball could fall into the 4-6 range of the draft.

As we wait to see which reports pan out, here are several more draft-related updates:

  • Vanderbilt sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith told reporters today that he has worked out for the Pelicans, Suns, Spurs, Heat, and Pistons so far, and has a workout lined up with the Celtics (Twitter link via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington). Nesmith is considered likely to be drafted in the back half of the lottery.
  • Arizona guard Josh Green has worked out for the Nuggets, while his college teammate Zeke Nnaji has had workouts for the Nuggets, Clippers, and Jazz, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Green’s workout with Utah and Nnaji’s workout with Miami – both mentioned by Rankin – were previously reported.
  • Count K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link) among those hearing more and more talk around the NBA linking the Hornets to Onyeka Okongwu. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer previously reported that Charlotte is eyeing Okongwu, but ESPN said the team hasn’t seriously considered picking any prospects outside the top tier of Ball, James Wiseman, and Anthony Edwards.
  • ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony, Mike Schmitz, and Kevin Pelton share their mock draft detailing which player each team in the first round should pick.

Western Notes: Nesmith, McMillan, Rockets, Diaz

Small forward isn’t a position of need for the Nuggets but if they go in that direction with their draft pick, Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith or Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard could make sense, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Denver holds the No. 22 pick. Nesmith would have to slip for the Nuggets to snare him at that spot — he’s currently rated at No. 13 overall on ESPN’s best available list, while Woodard is ranked No. 26. Nesmith’s perimeter shooting could compel Denver to attempt to move up in the first round, Singer adds.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Jamelle McMillan will not return on the Pelicans’ coaching staff with Stan Van Gundy in charge, Christian Clark and Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times Picayune report. McMillan has been in the New Orleans organization for eight seasons, though he also had a stint with the Suns. He’s the son of former Pacers coach Nate McMillan, who is reportedly joining the Hawks’ staff.
  • New Rockets GM Rafael Stone hints that he’ll be in the market for a traditional center, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon notes. Stone said he wants a roster with “more optionality” next season, presumably meaning Houston doesn’t want to play small ball on a regular basis. “We’re definitely not going into this offseason saying, ‘We don’t want anyone over 6-7,'” Stone said.
  • With the Clippers preparing to move to a new arena in 2024, the organization has announced several hires who will help with the transition, according to a team press release. Most notably, Alex Diaz has been named Chief Operating Officer. He will primarily oversee the operations planning of Inglewood Basketball & Entertainment Center and provide operational council for the Clippers, Honey Training Center and the LA Forum, which was acquired earlier this year by team owner Steve Ballmer.

New York Notes: Allen, Nets, Hampton, Nesmith, Knicks

While Joe Harris will be the Nets‘ top priority in free agency this fall, the team will also have to consider the possibility of a new deal for Jarrett Allen, who will become a restricted free agent in 2021 if he’s not extended before the start of the season.

As NetsDaily relays, ESPN’s Bobby Marks and Brian Windhorst discussed Allen on a recent episode of Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast, with Marks suggesting that the big man will be looking for “Clint Capela-type” money. The five-year contract Capela signed with Houston in 2018 had a base value of $80MM, with an extra $10MM in incentives, for an average annual value of $16-18MM.

If Allen is really seeking that kind of deal, Marks is skeptical he and the Nets will get anything done this year. An extension in the range of $12-14MM annually would be more palatable for Brooklyn, in Marks’ view.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that Allen would be a prime trade candidate if the Nets pursue a third star to complement Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, so it’s possible they won’t even have to worry about the young center’s next contract.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • The Nets worked out combo guard RJ Hampton in Memphis within the last two weeks, reports Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman previously said Brooklyn would be “extremely interested” in Hampton if he’s still available at No. 19.
  • In a separate story for The Post, Berman examines Aaron Nesmith‘s potential fit with the Knicks, weighing whether the Vanderbilt marksman would be an option for the team at No. 8 or if he’d only receive serious consideration in a trade-down scenario. Nesmith is the 13th-ranked prospect on ESPN’s big board.
  • After waiting for months for the NBA’s offseason to begin in earnest, the Knicks are now in position to significantly overhaul their roster in the span of a couple weeks, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics’ Draft, Raptors’ Offseason, Nets

The Celtics may want to move up in the draft, but getting a deal done won’t be easy, writes Tom Westerholm of MassLive. Other teams recognize Boston’s urgency to turn the 14th, 26th and 30th picks into a higher selection, which means president of basketball operations Danny Ainge might have to attach a significant asset to entice a trading partner.

Westerholm states that Tremont Waters, Carsen Edwards or Romeo Langford probably won’t be enough, and teams are more likely to ask for Grant Williams or Robert Williams, whom the Celtics would prefer to hold onto. Instead of moving up in the lottery, Boston may opt to keep the 14th choice and try to package No. 26 and No. 30 for a selection in the middle of the first round. They could also opt to use those two picks on draft-and-stash players who wouldn’t be on the roster next season.

 There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
  • Aaron Nesmith of Vanderbilt is the betting favorite to be the Celtics‘ selection if they keep the No. 14 pick, according to Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston. Nesmith, ranked 13th on ESPN’s list of the top 100 prospects, is listed as +550 and is followed by Patrick Williams of Florida State and Saddiq Bey of Villanova, both at +600.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic tries to build the perfect offseason for the Raptors, which includes re-signing free agents Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher and Oshae Brissett. Also in Koreen’s scenario, Toronto lures Harry Giles away from the Kings at $4.2MM for one season with a player option for 2021/22, and drafts Malachi Flynn and Paul Eboua. In a potentially significant move for the future, Koreen has Giannis Antetokounmpo turning down a super-max offer from the Bucks.
  • John Abbamondi, the new CEO of BSE Global, the Nets‘ parent company, relies on his military training to succeed in the business world, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. A former Navy pilot, Abbamondi is  looking forward to the upcoming season. “We have a really exciting season coming up,” he said. “We’re thrilled with the coaching staff (Steve Nash) has put together, excited to see (Kevin Durant) and (Kyrie Irving) on the court together, and there’s a whole bunch of talented players on this roster. There’s a lot to look forward to. We do hope to have fans back in the building at some point, although we have to be realistic: Everybody’s safety and health comes first.”