Indiana Pacers wing Aaron Nesmith started off his career in Boston not playing much. With the Celtics, he appeared in 98 games across two seasons, and he played less than 10 minutes in 41 of those outings.
He was always working hard, by all accounts. He stayed ready even when the opportunities weren’t there, and that allowed him to improve even while outside of the rotation.
When he was traded to the Indiana Pacers in 2022, he was given an everyday role instantly. That changed his career trajectory. Now, he’s an established rotation player for the Pacers and a part of their long-term future. His defense and shooting has been valuable to the franchise this season.
One of his coaches in Boston, then-assistant Will Hardy, worked with Nesmith often. He helped the young wing get better even when he wasn’t playing, and they developed a relationship.
Hardy is now the head coach of the Utah Jazz, and he’s seen growth from his former player since the two overlapped with the Celtics. “I love Aaron. Very happy for him and the contract extension he got,” he said last week. Nesmith received a three-year, $33 million extension with the Pacers in October. “He’s a really hard working guy. His physicality isn’t talked about enough, his athleticism isn’t talked about enough.”
Hardy praised Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle and his staff for putting Nesmith in positions to succeed. They believed in the young wing and gave him an opportunity right away.
“That’s one of the beauties of his game. He’s very versatile. He can guard really any position on the floor,” Carlisle said last weekend. He noted that due to Nesmith’s strength and power, he can play any spot two through four. “He’s a swiss army knife as a player.”
Nesmith had 26 points in his second game of the season and can get hot at any time. Indiana is 4-0 when he reaches double figures in scoring. His warm start and improved offensive play led to a nomination for the first Eastern Conference Player of the Week award this season.
So far this campaign, Nesmith is up to 11.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He has knocked down 46% of his threes, a number that will likely come down but is representative of a skill he has shown in the past and has worked on tirelessly.
“He was really, really steady. That says a lot about him and the character of Aaron,” Hardy said. Even though he sees the same person that he worked with in Boston when he looks at Nesmith now, he can tell that the wing is an evolved player.
“You can tell that there’s a different level of confidence because he knows he’s playing every night,” Utah’s head coach said. Nesmith would go on to score 24 points that evening in a win.
The Pacers have done well to help players in need of a bigger opportunity grow in the last few seasons. Nesmith is a perfect example, and he’s still just 24. Hardy has seen him grow in the last two seasons, and that trend should continue.