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NBA Draft 2020 Prospects: Aaron Nesmith and Best Shooters Available in Round 1

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2020

Vanderbilt forward Aaron Nesmith plays against Southeast Missouri State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won 83-65. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

As a general rule of thumb, if you can shoot, you'll find a home in the NBA

With that in mind, one of the best ways to find prospects who will find a role in the league is to identify the best shooters. As the saying goes, it's a make-or-miss league, and teams are constantly trying to add shooters to their lineup. 

The 2020 draft class is short on franchise-altering superstars. The names that dominate the headlines when it comes to this class like LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards could be All-Stars, but they aren't expected to be multiseason All-NBA guys. 

That doesn't mean there aren't players who can fill important roles. As you look further down the draft board, there are at least a few who could carve out good careers because of their shooting. They'll offer teams offensive firepower and floor spacing as long as they can prove not to be a liability on the defensive end. 

Here's a look at some of the top shooters who can help NBA teams and likely have productive careers. 

    

Aaron Nesmith, SF, Vanderbilt

There's a lot to like about sophomore Aaron Nesmith. He's ranked 17th on Jonathan Wasserman's big board. At 6'6" and 213 pounds with a 6'10" wingspan, he has the build to be a wing in the NBA and can defend multiple positions. 

Where he really shines is coming off screens and burying jumpers, though. Nesmith shot an astounding 52 percent from three-point land on 8.2 attempts per game in an injury-shortened season in which he played 14 games. 

Jonathan Wasserman @NBADraftWass

Aaron Nesmith tough shot-making from the post https://t.co/pNNIKWqiPF

NBA talent evaluators appear to be fairly high on Nesmith's ability to shoot off the catch. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic reported that Nesmith is "the name I get most often right now as the second-best wing in the class" from talent evaluators. 

Vecenie points out that Vanderbilt head coach and former NBA star Jerry Stackhouse ran a lot NBA-style plays for Nesmith, who responded with vastly improved production from his freshman season. 

Nesmith is far from a star prospect. If you're expecting for him to create himself or be a finisher around the rim, you're going to be disappointed. He isn't an elite athlete, so his defensive prowess is not going to get above average, but he can do enough there and obviously be a knock-down three-point shooter. 

    

Saddiq Bey, SF/PF, Villanova

Saddiq Bey is a little less projectable to the NBA game than Nesmith.

He's 6'8" and 216 pounds, so the question is whether he can give you minutes at the 4. His wingspan of 6'10" doesn't necessarily project well to him defending bigs, and he wasn't much of a rebounder with the Wildcats, pulling down 5.6 rebounds per 40 minutes. 

He is intriguing, though, as a secondary playmaker. Villanova ran the offense through him in the high post at times, and he was the ball-handler in pick-and-rolls, averaging 2.4 assists per contest. 

The heart of Bey's value is going to lie in his shooting, though. Here's what some of his advanced shooting looks like, per Wasserman's big board: "He's also one of the nation's most efficient half-court players, ranking in the 98th percentile out of spot-ups, the 88th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the 86th percentile on post-ups, the 91st percentile on cuts and 98th percentile off screens."

Jonathan Wasserman @NBADraftWass

Nothing flashy but Saddiq Bey perfectly squaring feet up into dribble jumper over ball screen https://t.co/qxV8kTmX67

To sum that up, he's a great catch-and-shoot option on the wing with the size to potentially guard either forward spot. His shooting doesn't seem to extend to pull-up jumpers, which limits him offensively, but drafting Bey is all about finding someone who can offer value throughout their rookie contract. 

    

Devin Vassell, SG/SF, Florida State

Vassell is the best overall prospect on this list because shooting isn't even his calling card at this point. He's one of the best shooters who projects to be a first-round pick, but his defense is what scouts should be praising as his No. 1 attribute. 

The 19-year-old is a good athlete who demonstrates strong defensive awareness and anticipation. He had 42 steals and 29 blocks in 30 games as a sophomore. He is quick and efficient in closeouts and displays potential to be a lockdown on-ball defender as well. 

When it comes to his shooting, you can see how he profiles as an offensive player. Unlike Nesmith and Bey, Vassell isn't just a spot-up shooter. He can fire off his shot off the dribble, and his high release point and relative quickness allowed him to shoot much more difficult shots than Bey and Nesmith, yet he still connected on 41.9 percent of his three-point attempts. 

According to The Ringer's draft guide, Vassell went from hitting one off-the-dribble three in his freshman season to 39 as a sophomore. That not only speaks well to his ability to shoot off the bounce but also his aptitude for working on his game and improving. 

It's those kinds of intangibles that often determine whether a player works out at the next level. Vassell has that in spades and should work out to be a usable three-and-D prospect for someone in the mid-first round on June 25. 

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