Brad Wanamaker will hit free agency this offseason. He might be back in Boston. He might take an offer elsewhere. There’s no guarantee of his interest or that the Celtics will fight hard to retain him, leaving open minutes behind Kemba Walker in the rotation.
The draft naturally provides a route for Boston to fill that gap. Names like Kira Lewis Jr., Cole Anthony, and Skylar Mays have been floated around as potential targets, though it’s hard to tell if the Celtics are enamored enough with any point guard to select them with one of their three first-round picks in the 2020 Draft.
Boston can look for external candidates all it wants, including via trade or free agency. Chances are the front office won’t be able to bring in anyone who would outright snatch the job from Carsen Edwards, so why shouldn’t the pending sophomore get the first crack?
The reigning 33rd overall pick had an uneventful rookie season where he got just 351 total minutes and struggled with his shot at 32.8 percent from the field and 31.6 percent on threes. There were standout November performances like the 13 points he had in a win over Cleveland and the 18 produced to beat the Wizards. Those were just two of the three times Edwards scored in double figures. None came after that Washington game on November 13th.
He’s small in height at 5’11’’ and the Celtics certainly don’t need another defensive liability at the point guard position. However, a well-built 200-pound frame makes Edwards a bit harder to move out the way than Walker’s listed 184.
Boston’s offensive rating dipped 5.3 points without Kemba during the regular season and 7.8 in the playoffs, a far bigger drop off than even Jayson Tatum. They struggle to replicate his 3-point shooting and off-the-dribble options his outside shot creates.
Edwards hasn’t yet proven any semblance of approximation at the NBA level, but he became one of the biggest names on the Summer League circuit thanks to similar skills.
The former Purdue star scorched the nets in Vegas, hitting 46.7 percent of 9.0 3-point attempts to help put up 19.4 points in just 23.3 minutes a night. He was confident in pulling a quick trigger under any circumstance beyond the arc and dynamic getting to the bucket.
Say what you will about the stark contrast between Summer League and college ball, where Edwards led Purdue to the Elite 8, and the NBA game. There’s a solid foundation Boston is uniquely suited to nurture because it has for similar players in the last few years.
Brad Stevens has a history of putting undersized point guards in favorable positions to impact the game. Walker — who admitted he stands 5’11’’ — hasn’t missed a beat since coming over from Charlotte. More reputably, Isaiah Thomas blossomed into an All-Star and top-5 MVP candidate under the Celtics head coach.
Boston’s offense has undergone significant changes since IT was closing fourth quarters, simplified to maximize the offensive talents of stars they didn’t previously have. That doesn’t mean Stevens can’t dust off the old playbook to generate similar dribble hand-offs — they were #1 in frequency in 2016-17 compared to bottom-third this past season — and drag screens to get Edwards the looks he covets.
If the Celtics fall into deep love with a point guard prospect then by all means scoop him up. But filling the void through the draft without substantial interest is a waste of an asset that could be used to address needs elsewhere across the roster.
Wanamaker made the Celtics 3.8 points worse per 100 possessions across more than 1,000 regular-season minutes — per Cleaning The Glass. Are the odds of similar shortcomings by Edwards really enough to outweigh the potential he brings to the court even after some struggles in the G League (27.7 3FG% on over nine attempts and 3.3 assists to 2.8 turnovers per game)?
Boston couldn’t have drafted Edwards without some belief in his ability to contribute at some point in time. Hence the relatively long 4-year, $4.5 million deal they inked him to last summer. That moment may have come sooner than expected but it’s an opportunity they should look into seeing as how it’s staring them dead in the face.