Vanderbilt forward Aaron Nesmith was regarded as one of the best available shooters in this year’s NBA draft, though he played in only 14 games as a sophomore because of a foot injury. Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

BOSTON —  The Boston Celtics loaded up on backcourt depth in the NBA draft on Wednesday night, picking Vanderbilt shooting guard Aaron Nesmith and Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard in the first round.

The Celtics used the No. 14 pick on Nesmith, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound sophomore who was averaging 23 points and shooting 51% before a foot injury ended his season 14 games in. Some analysts called him the best shooter in the draft.

“The shooting is his thing,” Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said. “When you can put the ball in the basket, that certainly is a benefit.”

Nesmith called himself an “absolute sniper” and said he wanted to make life easier for Celtics veterans like Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown. He described himself as “a guy that’s always going to be there, work hard and earn his stripes.”

“I want to be great,” he said. “I want to be the best player I can be, so that includes defense.”

With the 26th overall pick, the Celtics selected Pritchard, who was the Pac-12 player of the year after leading the conference with 20.5 points per game and 5.6 assists. Stevens praised his toughness.


“It should be fun to watch all these guys battle it out for playing time,” Stevens said, noting that the pandemic has scrambled the offseason schedule. “It’s come and get ready for real basketball in a couple of weeks. That should be a big challenge for all these guys.”

Boston traded the No. 30 pick to the Memphis Grizzlies, who used it to take Desmond Bane from Texas Christian. With the 17th pick in the second round, the Celtics selected point guard Yam Madar from Israel.

Basketball boss Danny Ainge was working to package the picks to move up in the first round but was unable to find a deal. Still looming for the Celtics: an opt-out deadline for Gordon Hayward that the sides agreed to push back to Thursday.

“It’s their option. It’s their choice. They get to do what they want,” Stevens said, adding that he didn’t need to pitch Hayward on staying. “I’ve talked to those guys all year long. … As they get closer to those deadlines, I say ‘If you need me, let me know.’ He knows us, he knows me and this entire situation.”

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