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Carsen Edwards may be destined for greatness. While his offensive skill set and motor may contribute to him becoming one of the best point guards in the NBA, the main reason No. 29 will be raised to the TD Garden rafters one day is because the Celtics swindled the Sixers into trading them the pick used to select him.
In all seriousness though, it doesn’t take very long to realize Edwards can flat out play. He most likely dropped to the second round due to the fact that he’s 6-1 and doesn’t give you much from a playmaking perspective, but I have a feeling Edwards is going to surprise some people and make them wonder why they didn’t use a first round pick on him. Fortunately for the Celtics, they already have a blueprint to how to maximize a player with Edwards’ talents.
Before we name Edwards the next Isaiah Thomas, let’s first see how his strengths on fit into what the Celtics like to do with their scoring guards.
When you’re undersized like Thomas and Edwards, you need to be able to make tough shots. When every defender is bigger and longer than you, and especially when the defense is keying on your every move, the ability to ignore it all and knock down tough looks is a trait not many people have.
Edwards was on a Purdue team that lacked consistent scoring, leaving him to create almost all the offense that didn’t come from their halfcourt sets. Once teams figured out he was a major threat, he rarely saw open looks. Tight defenses forcing him into tough shots hurt his shooting percentages last season (39.4 percent FG, 35.5 percent from three), but it’s quite clear that Edwards’ quick release and consistent mechanics will allow him to knock down shots at a higher clip with more space and less attention on him in the NBA.
As of this moment, the Celtics are going to have issues next season generating offense in the second unit. I’m not saying Boston should lean solely on a rookie point guard for their bench points, but running him through a multitude of screens could be a way to get Edwards comfortable early on.
It’ll also help to have a fellow rookie in Grant Williams as a distributor in those lineups. The Celtics’ roster could look a lot differently by the start of the season, but utilizing Edwards’ movement off the ball and quick release could be a calling card for this young team.
Thomas was used heavily in the pick and roll when he was with the Celtics. Whether it was a traditional ball screen or on a dribble handoff, Brad Stevens liked to get Thomas going downhill to open up the rest of the offense. Like I’ve said before, Edwards isn’t that much of a playmaker at this stage of his development, but the Celtics could use a defense’s overreaction to his three-point shooting to get him a nice lane to the basket.
While Edwards’ shooting jumps out when watching him on tape, you start to notice that he’s very good at getting into the paint. As you can see with Thomas in the above clip, he takes advantage of his man overplaying the pull-up jumper to get into the lane with ease. It opens up the roll man and leaves the big defender open to a foul.
Like Thomas and most of the Celtics’ draft picks this year, Edwards gets to the line a lot. He averaged 6.1 free throw attempts per game last season, while Kyrie Irving led the Celtics in 2018-19 with 3.7 attempts per game. Boston’s brass seems to want the Celtics to get to the line this year, and Edwards could be a consistent source of free throw attempts if they put him in these types of actions.
Getting to the point where Stevens puts Edwards in a Thomas-like role off the bench is probably the best-case scenario for his rookie season and most likely means the Celtics punt on using their cap space on marquee free agents, so I’d hold off on the sky-high expectations on him for now. But Stevens loves scoring guards with a knack for playing hard and making shots, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Edwards carved himself a consistent rotation spot before the 2019-20 season ends, especially on a Celtics team that should have a hard time creating offense.