Meet Devin Vassell and Aaron Nesmith, two of the Celtics’ latest workout participants

The Celtics can host up to 10 players for workouts ahead of next week's draft.

Devin Vassell worked out for the Celtics prior to next week's draft.
Devin Vassell worked out for the Celtics prior to next week's draft. –AP Photo/Gerry Broome

It’s not breaking news that the Celtics could use some shooting and floor spacing off the bench, and now we know that two of Boston’s 10 in-person pre-draft workouts were targeted at addressing that need. 

In Zoom media availabilities this week, Florida State’s Devin Vassell and Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith both confirmed that the Celtics have expressed interest in them ahead of the November 18th NBA Draft. Vassell noted that his workout and Zoom call with Boston went very well, while Nesmith said Wednesday that he was scheduled to work out for the Celtics in the coming days. Trade rumors are swirling, but for now, let’s keep those on the back burner and take a deeper look at Vassell and Nesmith.

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Reminder: The Celtics currently own pick Nos. 14, 26, 30, and 47. 

Devin Vassell

When it comes to 3-and-D prospects in this class, it doesn’t get much better than the 6-foot-7 Florida State product. Vassell can be a plug-and-play addition wherever he lands, which serves to be extra beneficial this year following a short offseason. The combination of his sharpshooting and defensive skill as a wing is perfectly suited for today’s NBA. 

With that being said, if the Celtics were to stay put at No. 14., there’s a good chance Vassell is off the board by the time they jump on the clock. If they trade up into the back-end of the top-10, however, it becomes a bit more realistic. It’s also worth noting that the potential for a flurry of trades could really shake up the lottery and cause certain prospects to slide further than initially expected.  

In two seasons at Florida State, Vassell shot 41.7 percent from deep on roughly three attempts per game. He can shoot both off the catch and off the dribble and uses his good instincts to effectively space the floor and move off the ball. Vassell showed flashes as a good wing passer in his sophomore season as well, a complementary skill that could eventually become a nice plus to his game. Vassell isn’t a high-maintenance offensive player, either. He knows his role and fills it, without constantly requiring the ball, something that should quietly help him a lot in his first few professional seasons. 

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Vassell brings a ton of value on the wing from a defensive standpoint, boasting a 6-foot-10 wingspan to go along with a brilliant sense for positioning, both on and off the ball. He’s a very good, versatile on-ball defender across multiple positions, but he’ll need to add some muscle if he wants to effectively guard up at the pro level. His team defense is one of his greatest strengths, using smart rotations, good hustle, and timely decision-making to become a vital component of his team’s system on that end. 

There isn’t a ton of upside with Vassell, but that isn’t a real concern. His floor is much higher than some of the class’ other top prospects, lessening the worry about the lack of star potential, especially for teams like Boston. The Celtics wouldn’t be asking Vassell to be some dynamic, explosive shot-creator — they already have their main offensive contributors. He’d be a reliable, starting-caliber 3-and-D wing, which perfectly fits what they need. 

Simply put: a defensive-minded wing who can shoot would be a welcome addition to any NBA team. 

A video surfaced on Twitter last month showing Vassell shooting with a concerning new form, causing his stock to fall a bit for various draft analysts. Prospects who change their shooting mechanics before the draft scare people more often than not (see: Markelle Fultz), but this was Vassell’s response to the video when asked about it on Thursday: 

“I haven’t changed my jump shot,” he said. “I feel like there’s no reason to change my jump shot at all. I think at the end of the day, it was just the end of the workout and we were just shooting from a lot deeper than the regular NBA 3-point line. I just think it was from the angle that she took it. I think it made it seem like I caught the ball up high above my head a lot further than I normally do. But I’ve never attempted to change my jump shot and won’t change it because I’ve had a lot of success with the jump shot that I have right now.” 

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Aaron Nesmith

Nesmith is another wing who would bring knockdown shooting, floor spacing and size to Boston. His scheduled workout with the Celtics this week is a good indication of interest, considering teams are allowed a maximum of just 10 in-person workouts this year due to COVID-19 protocols. 

The 6-foot-6 wing is seeing interest right now in the late-lottery to the mid-’20s, but I’d be surprised if he’s still on the board by the time we hit the Miami Heat at No. 20. Nesmith played just 14 games during his sophomore season due to a foot fracture, but that small sample size was impressive, to say the least. 

In those 14 games, Nesmith hit an absurd 52.2 percent of his 3-pointers on 8.2 (!) attempts per game. Small sample size or not, those are some ridiculous shooting numbers. It’s important to note that those 14 games came against a light, non-conference schedule, in addition to the 33.7 percent clip he posted during his 32-game freshman season. He is arguably this class’ best shooter, though, and should be effective at the pro level both off the bounce and off the catch. 

Right now, he’s a straight shooter who plays hard, but his size and decent athleticism bode well for his development in other areas. Nesmith was a smart, hard-working defender at Vanderbilt, but sometimes got beat off the dribble against smaller matchups. His 6-foot-10 wingspan gives me long-term confidence on that end, and even early on, he won’t be a defensive liability on the floor. 

If the Celtics want shooting, floor spacing and someone who can contribute off the bench right away, Vassell and Nesmith are two very solid wing options. Vassell brings the high-level defensive skill set, which gives him the edge over Nesmith, but if Boston were to land either prospect with their top choice, Celtics fans should be happy.

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