1. Aaron Nesmith's defensive presence
Let’s start with the side of the ball that the Pacers have struggled with the most this year: Defense. Rick Carlisle recently placed Nesmith in the starting lineup because he’s looking for any defensive help he can find. Nesmith has provided that help when he’s on the court.
Other than being a tad small for the modern-day wing, Nesmith brings everything a team wants on defense. He has enough length and physicality to guard bigger players on the block, but the fluidity and quickness make it difficult for guards. His length here makes an even greater impact if he’s switched onto a backcourt player.
The on-ball skill is at such a high level in today’s NBA that, a lot of times, a defense’s best option is to switch. Teams can still be hurt if the switch is a mismatch for them, but it’s not as bad as giving a shooter space, especially with today's level of jump shooting. It’s also not as detrimental as letting a great dribble-drive player build momentum downhill.
His length can bother guards and help him recover if he’s beaten. He does a consistent job of not letting that happen. He’s guarded players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Damian Lillard, and Trae Young as well as you can ask a player to guard those types of guys.
This is why defensive players like Nesmith have become so valuable. He can switch in any situation & more than hold his own.
He has become very skilled in off-ball situations as well. His positioning & timing have led to being a weapon in getting blocks coming from the weak side.
This clip from the PacersTalk YouTube channel has great footage of Nesmith’s defensive versatility.