(Image by Tomek Kordylewski)
By Jesse Cinquini
There were high hopes for Carsen Edwards heading into his maiden NBA season. At the time, he was coming off a superbly productive stint at the Las Vegas Summer League. Just how terrific was he? Well, Edwards’ Summer League performance ranks among the top in Celtics history.
Over a five-game span, Carsen put up a franchise-record 19.4 points per contest, on superb efficiency no less. Forty-eight percent of his 91 field-goal attempts found the net. Also, Edwards was a flamethrower from deep, hitting 21 of 45 treys which equates to a scorching 46.6 percent clip. After a stellar showing at Vegas, Carsen appeared to be NBA-ready. But was he? Not quite, and we’ll delve into why.
Sub-par efficiency/shot selection with Boston
Edwards is on the court to get buckets. Plain and simple. The Celtics selected Carsen with the hopes that he’d provide consistent scoring off the pine. It’s not exactly a bold statement to say he failed to do so. The accuracy and confidence Edwards had in his shot eluded him once the regular season commenced.
Perimeter woes plagued the 22-year-old throughout his 35 games as a Celtic, too. He sits at a lowly fifth percentile among combo guards in points per shot attempt, according to Cleaning the Glass. To boot, Carsen managed to shoot just 32.7 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from deep as a pro. Not exactly numbers that scream NBA-ready.
Edwards’ less than ideal efficiency in the big leagues directly correlated with his tendency to settle for off-balance, low-percentage looks. Like I noted before, he’s a bucket-getter first and foremost, so I understand why he gets a bit trigger-happy on occasion. That being said though, the sequence below is an example of how taking unwarranted “heat check” shots can be detrimental to the team. Here Carsen launches an awkward, hurried 29-footer. There were 18 seconds left on the shot clock. Surely Boston could’ve executed something substantially more effective with that time.
Edwards proved during his college days he can convert inside among the trees. His shot-creation prowess extends beyond simply the perimeter. Carsen’s quickness and bulky frame make him a constant driving threat. Meaning, if a big happens to switch onto the 5’11” guard, he should exploit the mismatch by taking them off the bounce. In this snippet, Edwards gets a favorable matchup, as Bobby Portis switches onto him off the pick and roll. With a plethora of space to work with and an unprotected rim, Carsen foolishly opts for a pull-up trey and misfires.
The rook has yet to find his scoring rhythm in Beantown. Yet, his G-League display was an entirely different story. In 13 appearances with the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s G-League affiliate, Edwards flashed an offensive repertoire that should have Celtics faithful encouraged.
Promising stretch in Maine
The mid-range jumper is a lost art in today’s pace-and-space era. Still, scoring machines such as Chris Paul and DeMar DeRozan are living proof that the in-between shot remains an effective offensive tool. Said range served as Edwards’ bread-and-butter during his period with the Red Claws. Carsen utilized screens to set himself up for off-the-dribble pull-ups/ floaters near the free-throw line. Long story short, he burned the defense from this proximity. Edwards connected on an otherworldly 52.3 percent of his mid-rangers in Maine.
He operated as the team’s undisuputed primary scorer and ballhandler. Carsen averaged 19.4 shots in 34.3 minutes per game as a Red Claw. His top outing as a G-Leaguer came on January 16 against the Long Island Nets. The entirety of Edwards’ offensive repertoire was on display this evening. He was hitting his threes (4-for-9 from deep), knifing to the rim, showing off his touch, and even sprinkled in a handful of no-look dimes. He totaled 33 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Edwards suffered from a case of the yips in Boston. But Portland, Maine is where he found his composure. The game has slowed down for him. Let’s hope this newfound poise can translate to the NBA level. I believe it will. As I’ll get in to below, his career arc is remarkably similar to a few prospects who went on to see future success.
Offseason To-Do List
Former high usage guards have a history of struggling when shifted to a lesser role in the NBA. But some bounced back after a rocky start. Two names in particular that come to mind are Trey Burke and Shabazz Napier. Both were on the cusp of losing their jobs. They adapted their playstyle though, and as a result resurrected their careers. Edwards can do the same.
It’s never been a matter of whether or not Carsen has the talent. Rather it’s about picking his spots and acclimating himself to the league’s size. What Edwards needs most to excel at the next level is simple: experience. Consistent run-time over a sustained period may prove to be the remedy for his NBA jitters.