"Coming into college, I did not see myself being able to leave early" says Edwards in a May 2019 interview with hoopshype.com. The 21-year-old garnered attention from basketball fans worldwide during the 2019 NCAA tournament for his electrifying shooting displays. Now he's made an NBA roster and is tackling the 2019-20 season.
Carsen's elite 3-point shot-making is his defining skill. It's what people know him for and it's what we all expect to see as soon as he steps on the court. His efficiency on these shots in his final college season was questionable at best though. Shooting splits of 39/36/84 aren't very encouraging for a 6'1" NBA hopeful.
This lower efficiency has an explanation. His usage % shot up to over 37% from 30% the year before. This required him to take more shots and to carry the Purdue offense. With a larger workload often comes lower efficiency.
His SOS (Strength of Schedule) was also the highest of his career in his Junior year. He faced his toughest competition in the year with his highest usage rate and level of responsibility.
He still finished top 10 in NCAA scoring at 24.3 points per game.
His free throw percentages were consistent through college being at 82% and 84% in his final two years. It is well known that free throw shooting is often a good indicator of NBA shooting capability for college players. Combining his free throw ability with his proficiency on threes from NBA range, we can conclude that his shooting will almost certainly translate.
Edwards was not always a high-usage guy in college, and many people overlook his stats from his sophomore year. At a reduced workload, he shot 40.6% from 3 and 45.8% from the field. This led to a TS% (true shooting percentage) of 59.6% (very good for a score-first guard).
In the NBA, Carsen has not had to shoulder a large load when on the floor. Boston's depth is quite good, so his shot quality and shot selection are lining up more with what we saw in that sophomore season.
We had a nice glimpse into the future with Carsen's pre-season and summer league performances. While these are not often accurate predictors of an NBA career, we can at least see that there was no significant drop-off from his college stats to his first NBA competition. He actually finished with the highest summer league average in Boston Celtics history at 19.4 PPG on an efficient 48% shooting from the field. His pre-season stats were arguably just as impressive. Against the tougher competition he still managed 15.3 PPG on 51.2% FG and 45.2% 3PT.
Carsen's skills go beyond just shooting threes.
These two college highlight videos demonstrate some of his greatest strengths on the court. Timestamps of key highlights are laid out below.
1:35 - Despite being just over 6 feet tall, Edwards has a wingspan of 6'6". This allows him to make defensive plays that many other short guards can't make. Take the ridiculous block he makes here as an example.
1:39 - Here Edwards shows his off-ball movement. He shoots the three while on the move at a very high rate of speed. He could have set his feet better, and he also decided to shoot a highly contested shot, but he makes it anyway. This reminds me a lot of J.J. Redick or Patty Mills.
1:50 - His excellent off-ball movement is evident again here. He also demonstrates his basketball IQ by perfectly reading the defender jumping the screen. Edwards quickly decides to split the screen which leads to a pull-up jumpshot.
2:07 - Carsen's defensive ability, wingspan, and elite athleticism are displayed in this sequence. He reads the passing lane perfectly and goes in for the very athletic dunk.
2:32 - Even the very subtle shoulder movement makes the defender bite at the fake. This shows just how much of a threat Edwards is from the three point line (not to mention he manages to make a deep contested three right after the fake).
0:50 - He could have made the pass to his big man a second earlier to lead to an easier look. He does ultimately get the assist though.
2:18 - Again shows off the core strength that allows him to create space for a jumpshot.
3:28 - Edwards is fearless. Look here as he drives straight at the taller defender for a contested finish.
5:55 - This clip reminds me of other elite NBA shooters. He draws the defender in from behind him to take the contact and drill the shot. We've seen this a lot more in recent years with the increase in three point fouls. Players like James Harden and Steph Curry use this move when they can.
These highlights give me flashes of other shooting point guards in the NBA. They remind me of players like Fred VanVleet, Patty Mills, and Isaiah Thomas. Edwards agrees with this.
"I like Patty Mills a lot." He said. "I like Fred VanVleet and the way he impacts the game."
Saying you model your game after effective role players is quite humble. It also shows that Edwards knows his role as a rookie. In a recent interview with NBC Sports, Carsen was asked about his role and how coach Brad Stevens has been managing him. He responded with
"I didn’t expect [Stevens] to talk to me about it. He’s the head coach and there’s so much he has to do, so much to think about...
...But at the end of the day, if I don’t play, it’ll be because it’s the best thing for the team."
Edwards shows maturity comparable to that of a veteran player. He is willing to work hard and knows that stardom won't simply be handed to him.
Put all of this evidence together and you have a player with a championship mindset. A guy who doesn't mind if he doesn't play, but also has the skills to be an elite shooter in the NBA.
The Celtics have a long season ahead. Carsen hasn't seen much time yet, but I'll be keeping a close eye on him in the future. In a few years time, he could prove all his doubters wrong.