Sharpshooting Vanderbilt forward Aaron Nesmith was selected by the Boston Celtics with the 14th overall pick in Wednesday’s NBA draft. Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

With their attempts to trade into the top of the draft denied, and with the team still waiting Wednesday night for Gordon Hayward to make a decision on his $34.1 option, the Celtics had to stick to the script in the NBA draft.

With two first-round picks, they drafted players with a skill they desperately needed in Aaron Nesmith, a drop-dead shooter from Vanderbilt who they took with the 14th pick, and Payton Pritchard, an Oregon point guard also known for his jumper, at pick No. 26.

But any hope that the Celtics could move up higher, and resolve the Hayward situation with a trade, was dashed.

“There was a lot of trade discussion before the draft, so I think we anticipated there to be more during the draft,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, who declined to discuss Hayward’s decision, or anything pertaining to free agency, on Wednesday night.

“There was a lot of discussion, but not anything that was really tempting for us in the first part of the draft,” said Ainge. “It was not as eventful as we thought, but we did have some discussions about moving up and then about moving back, but as we were watching the draft unfold and we saw that one of the guys that we identified as a player that we liked and wanted, we just hung in there and we were fortunate that we got our guy.”

That player was Nesmith, who referred to himself Wednesday night as an “absolute sniper.” Judging from the way they struggled against zone coverage during the playoffs, the Celtics could certainly use someone with that job description.


The Vanderbilt guard was generally considered the best shooter on the draft board. He shot an other-worldly 52.2 percent from 3-point range last season, though he was sidelined for good 14 games into the season because of a foot injury.

Known for his fluid ability off screens, with an average of 4.3 3-pointers made per game (8.2 attempts), the young wing comes with a much-needed skill for a team that suffered through long scoring droughts in the playoffs due to lack of offensive depth.

Nesmith can easily see himself helping to fill in those gaps.

“You know, an absolute sniper, a guy who’s going to make life easier for the creators of the offense, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker,” said Nesmith. “A guy that is always going to be there and work hard and earn his stripes and do it on both sides of the floor. I want to be great. I want to be the best player I can be, and so that includes defense. I’m going to give my all and the best effort I have to that side of the floor, and with my size, length and athleticism, being able to guard multiple positions.”

The Celtics then went for Pritchard, the Pac-12 Player of the Year and another strong shooter, before trading the 30th pick to Memphis for future considerations. In the second round, they drafted Israeli point guard Yam Madar with the 47th pick. Madar, 19, is not expected to play in the NBA for quite some time, and will be “stashed” with his team in Tel Aviv for at least one season.

But the Celtics were able to address their shortcomings against zone coverage – a weakness that was especially evident during their loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.

“I think you’re always looking for shooting, you’re always looking for guys who can put the ball in the basket,” said Coach Brad Stevens. “We were evaluating several guys across the draft that brought different strengths, that brought different things to the table. When 14 came out, we felt best about Aaron.

“And then Payton is obviously a knockdown shooter as well that can do a lot of things with the basketball. So shooting is certainly important. It certainly is a high priority … and we feel very good about the two picks in the first round and look forward to getting those guys here because they don’t get the benefit of a summer league and some nice preseason two-on-two before the season kicks off to get themselves ready. It’s going to be full steam ahead here soon.”

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