Don’t Give up on Carsen Edwards Just Yet

In a season filled with so many positives, Carsen Edwards has easily been the Celtics’ most disappointing player of the 2019-20 season.

Edwards, a rookie point guard that showed legitimate promise as a bench scorer in the 2019 Summer League and 2019-20 NBA Preseason, had fallen out of Brad Stevens’ rotation almost entirely by the time the season was suspended. His statistical averages (3.0 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.6 assists per game on 32.7% FG and 30.9% 3PT) are a scary sight. The fact that he saw court time in just over half of Boston’s games this season (35 games played out of a possible 64) would make any meaningful playoff minutes very surprising.  However, while Edwards most certainly underwhelmed during his first season with the Celtics, it may be too early to write him off as a bust.

After a string of impressive performances at the 2019 Summer League, Boston signed Edwards to a four year contract worth over $4.5 million in guaranteed salary. At the time, the contract seemed like somewhat of a steal for a player who had the potential to shoulder some of the scoring load on a top-heavy roster. Edwards’ 19.4 points per game (on 48% FG and 40% 3PT) led the team, and he showed off some impressive versatility as an offensive spark-plug.

While strong Summer League numbers were enough to excite Boston’s front office and fanbase, it was his success in the Preseason that further solidified the notion that Edwards would be among Stevens’ most-utilized bench guards. Over the course of four Preseason games, Edwards averaged 15.3 points per game (on 51.2% FG and 45.2% 3PT) in just 18.3 minutes per game – including a monstrous showing against the Cleveland Cavaliers that saw him knock down nine three-point field goals en route to 30 points.

Summer League success doesn’t always translate to success in the NBA. However, the contrast between the scoring numbers Edwards posted in the Regular Season compared to the Preseason is undoubtedly confusing. The Summer League doesn’t have an excess of NBA-ready talent like the Preseason does, and players who are able to perform at the level of efficiency Edwards exhibited in the Preseason are usually able to have some tangible impact on an NBA roster.

Edwards may never end up having a significant impact in the NBA. His lack of size makes defensive assignments and finishing around the basket more difficult. He never dropped any jaws as a passer, even during his excellent Summer League and Preseason play. However, at 22, he still has a lot of time to improve his skill set. Edwards doesn’t necessarily deserve any extra playing time just to allow him to further acclimate to the NBA’s intense level of competition, but nine minutes per game isn’t exactly a lot of time to establish oneself as a key contributor on a basketball team. More time with Boston’s player development staff, coupled with more in-game reps and chances to prove himself as a floor-spacer (if nothing else) could help nudge Edwards’ career in a more positive direction.

If Carsen Edwards is still hovering around the end of the Celtics’ bench by the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, it may be time to seriously consider a breakup. However, dismissing him entirely at this point is premature. Edwards, despite his flaws, has a lot of potential, complete with good offensive instincts and a quick-trigger release on his jumpshot. Giving up hope after one season could be a decision Boston ends up regretting.

Photo: Winslow Townson/AP Photo

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