It didn’t take long for the Indiana Pacers contract extension with wing Aaron Nesmith to look like a good move.
Truly, the move looked solid the second the ink dried on Nesmith’s new deal. The 24-year old wing signed a three-year, $33 million rookie-scale extension with Indiana, bringing his agreement to four years in total. He’s under contract through the 2026-27 season.
As laid out here, a deal between $10 and $12 million annually made sense for Nesmith and the Pacers. “Aaron has had one year with us and did a good job for us. It’s got to be the right situation for both sides. We’ll have those conversations,” general manager Chad Buchanan said of a possible extension before the campaign started.
Those conversations ended up being productive, and the two sides extended their partnership. It’s been quite the success story for the Pacers — and for Nesmith. When Indiana traded away Malcolm Brogdon and acquired the young wing, his value and potential was relatively unknown.
He started off his time with the Pacers as a reserve. That didn’t last long. Nesmith came off the bench in seven of his first 11 outings for the blue and gold. He then started in 53 of his final 62 appearances that year. He proved very quickly that he’s a nice developing piece for Indiana.
“It’s great news for the organization, for the city, [and] for our team,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of the extension. “He’s still a very young player, and this positions him very well in his career and it positions our franchise well also.”
In his first full season in the Circle City, Nesmith averaged 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He drilled nearly 37% of his outside shots, too, and his defense was solid.
That’s a valuable player archetype. Knocking down threes and playing effective defense are both highly-desired skills on the wing. Nesmith has some limitations, but he can do both of those things at a level that makes him important.
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That’s why he was a player worth extending. And it’s no surprise, given his strong base of important skills, that the 2020 lottery pick has already shown signs that the contract may be a fantastic deal for the blue and gold.
According to Carlisle and Nesmith, the young forward spent the offseason working on some of his perimeter skills and his ability to read the game. He wanted to be able to quickly make decisions with the ball, and then attack.
Indiana Pacers v Houston Rockets
In the preseason, those skills were on display. Against the Rockets early in the month, he finished with 18 points while only making one three-point shot, a statline that he never pulled off last season. A few nights prior, he got up six free throw attempts against the Grizzlies. Nesmith had more juice with the ball.
If that was something he could pair with his defense and shooting, he was an easy extension candidate. That would make him a rare player type.
The Pacers were quick to get something done after his preseason play. Even if Nesmith didn’t show a more well-rounded game in the exhibitions, his base is solid enough to invest in long term. The added skills he showed early in the preseason made keeping him a no-brainer.
“It’s very rewarding,” Nesmith said of the extension. “Being able to make the most of [this opportunity] and make this home is definitely a great feeling.”
He’s now tied to the Pacers for the next four seasons as the team ascends. Nesmith should ascend as well. He scored a career-high 26 points in his second game of the 2023-24 season. The Vanderbilt product is still getting better.
That’s why this extension is such a safe bet for the blue and gold. The worst-case scenario is that Nesmith doesn’t get any better, and in that case, he is still probably worth $33 million from 2024 through 2027. If he improves, it’s a slam-dunk deal. And for Nesmith, a player who has had inconsistent opportunities throughout his career, locking up life-changing money on a team with forward depth makes sense.
Now, the two parties will continue together. In many ways, the Pacers trajectory as a young, improving team is similar to Nesmith’s. That made an extension make sense, and the Pacers pulled off a low-risk deal.