It’s hard to argue that a player fell short of expectations as a second-round pick. Tabbed as one of the 2019 Draft’s potential sleeper hits after being acquired by the Celtics in their draft day trade with Philadelphia, though, Carsen Edwards came close. With his rookie season in the books, the biggest offseason question surrounding Carsen Edwards is an unfortunately simple one: is he an NBA player?
The shooting upside with Edwards is obvious. He was a 37% three-point shooter on massive volume at Purdue, a confident and audacious scorer with easy NBA range who carried a Purdue offense that often lacked scoring threats outside of himself. In a league that has become increasingly dependent on the three-pointer — and on a team that embraced the pull-up three to a notable extent this season — his path to NBA production was apparent. And after an electric preseason performance that saw him connect on nine threes (eight in the third quarter alone) against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the rookie entered his first NBA season with a significant amount of hype.
Once the games started to count, however, Edwards seldom showed glimpses of the ceiling he put on display during that preseason explosion. A couple strong November shooting performances against anemic defenses (13 points on 5-of-6 shooting against Cleveland and 18 points on 7-of-12 against Washington) aside, Edwards spent the early months of the season largely laying bricks, before largely falling out of rotation in favor of Brad Wanamaker. A 13-game stint in the G-League didn’t provide much more optimism: he connected on just 27% of his triples (although he did score 22 points per game).
The lack of effectiveness from behind the arc exposed a player with seemingly little to offer in other phases of the game. He provided nothing of value as a scorer inside the arc (including a brutal 7-of-18 mark at the rim), and has never been mistaken for an offensive facilitator (just an 18.5% assist rate in three college seasons). While he has the length (6-foot-6 wingspan) to compensate for his lack of height on the defensive end, he’s only solid at best on that end of the floor, without much versatility beyond checking other guards. What, then, is Edwards’ role if he’s not hitting threes?
Backup point guard is a position the Celtics will need to address this offseason. Edwards could factor into that mix; here at CelticsBlog, we made the case for it this week. But there are plenty of other options if the team feels he’s not ready. Wanamaker played well last season, and could likely return for pretty cheap in free agency if they opt to invest more resources elsewhere on the bench. Their three first round picks could also yield a new option, whether it’s someone like Kira Lewis Jr. or Cole Anthony or (dreaming big) Killian Hayes. Edwards could find himself included as part of a trade package for a veteran, as a younger player with an easily includable salary that could work as a sweetener.
It isn’t necessarily fair to write off Edwards after just one poor season as an NBA player. While he didn’t exactly impress, it was only a 37 game sample in the NBA, less than the 108 games at Purdue that established him as an intriguing prospect to begin with. He wouldn’t be the first young player to start his NBA career on a down note, and we know he has talent that could translate to a rotational role on an NBA team.
But, as positioned now, the Celtics may not be able wait for him. This is a team that once again came within grasp of the NBA Finals, and they’re looking for the final pieces they need to make those last couple steps to get there. Unfortunately, without some very rapid improvement, that could mean that the timing just isn’t right for Carsen Edwards and the Boston Celtics.