Boston Celtics: Early apologies to Carsen Edwards

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 28: Carsen Edwards #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at the KFC YUM! Center on March 28, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MARCH 28: Carsen Edwards #3 of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at the KFC YUM! Center on March 28, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

In Carsen Edwards, the Boston Celtics may have gotten themselves a steal early in the second round. And with his impressive showing in summer league play, Edwards has already been able to lay one critic’s concerns to rest — for the time being, anyway. 

Hey Boston Celtics’ fans, what’s 5-10, too freakin’ skinny and thinks every NBA prospect stinks, aside from seven-footers touting huge wingspans and highly efficient shooters and/or scorers?

Hint: it’s this guy.

So I was understandably feeling rather dejected when NBA Deputy Commissioner, Mark Tatum, announced that with the 33rd pick in the 2019 draft, the Philadelphia 76ers (on behalf of the Celtics due to a draft night trade) would be selecting Carsen Edwards.

Most fans across the NBA landscape don’t get too worked up about who their favorite team takes in the second round of the draft. But we’re different here in Boston.

Plainly stated, we care a whole heck of a lot more than other fanbases do.

So there I was, sitting on the very edge of my sofa, biting my nails, and hoping my Celtics would pick Bol Bol. Then…

I hear the name “Carsen Edwards” called out.

My first thought was the Celtics should have drafted…. well, Bol Bol.

My second thought was that Edwards hadn’t proved he could shoot the basketball with anything resembling efficiency, at least not in keeping with my lofty standards.

I remembered having looked up his college statistics when he had been on that admittedly great run of his during the NCAA tournament this past season, and having been unimpressed.

At the time, in digesting those stats, I came to believe Edwards was cut from the same cloth as the shoot-first, pass the ball later, more selfish players of the world — and that he was ultimately a much lesser version of, say, Allen Iverson.

In other words, Edwards had struck me as a certified ball hog.

He was a player who might catch fire once in a while, thus justifying to more novice observers that he shoot the ball nearly every time down the floor, but a player who at the end of the day is woefully inefficient and who’s style of play hinders his team’s potential for success.

Learning that Edwards was going to play for the Celtics, and being the fair-minded kind of guy that I am (well, sort of), I decided I’d look up his college stats one more time.

After all, perhaps I had misremembered the kid’s numbers or had been a bit too hard on him the first go round’. Everyone deserves a second chance.

2018-2019 College Season: FG% .394, 3P% .355, PTS 24.3, TRB 3.6, AST 2.9.

Nope, I was right.

His shooting percentages are trash! Why can’t Danny ever pick someone who can actually shoot the freakin’ ball? 2.9 assists?!

Time passed, the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas rolled around, and I tried to keep an open mind about Edwards heading into game action.

In the Celtics’ opener against the 76ers, Edwards put together what for him was a characteristic performance, scoring 20 points, to go along with a couple of rebounds. He didn’t tally a single assist. He shot 7-17 from the field and 5-12 from beyond the arc.

Ah-ha! I knew it! That’s typical Edwards. Inefficient scorer. Doesn’t pass the ball. Damn it, Danny!!

But over the course of the Celtics remaining slate of games in Las Vegas, Edwards would do nothing short of “light it up,” expertly scoring in a multitude of ways: quick hesitation drives to the basket; finding brief glimpses of daylight to finish strong amongst the trees; spot up three pointers; and highly contested daggers just before the shot clock had begun to sound.

Throughout the Celtics’ five summer league contests, Edwards would average 19.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and one steal per game. He was extremely efficient, shooting 47.9% overall from the field and 46.7% on his three point attempts.

Taking a look around the league, Edwards was most certainly snubbed in not having been selected to either the first or second All NBA Summer League Team.

Hmmm… maybe this Edwards kid isn’t so bad after all? 

In so far as a player’s summer league performance can prove anything, Edwards had proved me wrong.

And he had intrigued me enough to want to take one more quick look at those college statistics of his that had me so hot and bothered to start with — but this time with a little bit of context sprinkled on top.

Everything tastes better with context.

I wanted to take into consideration the scoring prowess and passing ability of Edward’s Purdue Boilermaker’s teammates.

Because if they didn’t represent true scoring threats or weren’t capable of racking up any assists, then Edwards would inevitably have had to force up some of his shots, lowering his shooting percentages for one thing.

Man, were those Purdue teammates of his terrible…

(My apologies to the 2018-2019 Purdue Men’s basketball team for the brutal honesty.)

During the 2018-2019 season, Edwards was the Boilermaker’s clear-cut leading scorer, again, averaging 24.3 points.

The second leading scorer on the team? That was Ryan Cline, who averaged only 12.3 points — about half that of Edwards’ points total.

Now, 12.3 points is a fine average. Really, it is. But that’s just not the case for the second leading scorer on a NCAA division I team making a deep run in the postseason.

Moreover, Cline wasn’t the type of player who could create his own shot, or do much of anything else.

Instead, he was your stereotypical three-point specialist, a player who depends on others to create his scoring opportunities for him.

Cline was on the floor to shoot three-pointers and, well, that’s about all he was out there to do, as evidenced by the fact that he shot 7.4 three’s a game, compared with only 2.4 two’s. Again, that’s 7.4 three’s… to 2.4 two’s, Celtics fans.

That’s one staggering ratio.

I found that after Edwards and Kline, the next leading scorer for Purdue averaged fewer than 10 points a game.

And no player averaged more than 3.3 assists…

At this point, it became obvious to me that Edwards had to shoot the ball like a maniac; otherwise, Purdue wouldn’t have scored very much, or at all.

In truth, Edwards had dragged his college teammates with him kicking and screaming all the way to the Elite Eight.

All was forgiven.

Edwards should be able to pick his spots much better in the pro’s, where he’ll be surrounded by real talent while on offense — players who can make shots, and not only create for themselves, but for others, as well.

How might those collegiate shooting percentages of Edwards’ have looked had he had the benefit of there being a capable distributor, let’s say, out there on the floor with him?

Such a player would have been a great compliment to Edwards’ natural scoring instincts.

Or what about another legitimate scoring threat to take some of an opponent’s defensive focus away from Edwards on occasion?

And who knows? His assists totals may have even increased.

But being relied upon to carry his college team’s offense by himself may prove beneficial to Edwards in the long run.

While at Purdue, he was forced to develop a capacity to score in the toughest of circumstances, when the whole world knew that as the clock wound down to its final seconds, it would be Edwards taking the shot. Because it was either that, or his team would typically lose.

Edwards’ stellar play, first in the NCAA tournament and then during the NBA Summer League, certainly would suggest he’s developed a knack for scoring in these pressured situations.

Then, in all of Edwards’ interviews since joining the Celtics, he’s demonstrated that he’s truthfully a humble, team-first player, one who defers on individual praise and comments only on the importance of staying focused and winning. (Bill Bellichick would be proud.)

If that doesn’t make him endearing enough for you, Celtics fans, Edwards heavily tapes up his left wrist before each game, writing on that can’t miss tape job of his in bold, black sharpie, “HELP MAMA OUT,” “THANK GOD,” “HAVE FUN,” and “KILL EVERYTHING.”

How could anyone root against a kid who just wants to help out his mom, praise the Lord, have some fun while doing so, and be an absolute killer on the court?

It sure does make it difficult.

If there’s one thing the Kyrie Irving experience in Boston has taught me — and likely all of us who may have needed the lesson — it’s that character and perhaps even a general likability are important factors in fostering a winning culture. And from the fans’ perspective, creating a team that’s easy to root for.

I had always been of the mind that talent trumped all, particularly with respect to the NBA, the professional sports league in which winning is more than in any other, a star-driven affair.

As they say on the Felger and Mazz program on 98.5 the Sports Hub, “bring me the a-hole!”

For now, though, I think I’ll pass on the a-hole.

Instead, you can start by bringing me Carsen Edwards.

He may just be the rare mix of both talent and class every team and its fanbase is really hoping for.

Next. Boston Celtics still has faith in Hayward, and you should too. dark

So welcome aboard, Carsen. I’m looking forward to watching you shoot the lights out this coming season.

(What will be Edwards role this year? What’s his ceiling? As always, I’d love to read about what you think in the comments section. Thanks for reading.)