Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This breakdown profiles Purdue guard Carsen Edwards.
Carsen Edwards will get buckets. He lit the NCAA Tournament on fire in March with multiple 40-point games for a Purdue team that was at times entirely carried by his offensive brilliance. A lot of his scoring acumen will translate nicely to the NBA level, but the lack of a well-rounded game on both ends of the floor limits his upside and pushes him further down draft boards than some of the other guards slated to be taken in the lottery. Edwards’ game is more lopsided in that way; he’ll put the ball in the basket with regularity, but whether the rest of his skill set develops will define whether he’s a career backup or can push into a starting point guard spot at some point.
The place to start with Edwards is his scoring, as that will be the foundation upon which the rest of his game is built. As soon as he crosses the halfcourt line, defenses have to be fully aware of where he is and whether he’s about to fire away. There are a handful of guards in this class with long-range potential, but Edwards is likely the best of the bunch, with the ability to hit shots from essentially anywhere on the floor. Either off the dribble or off the catch, he’ll be a lethal outside scorer from the moment he steps into the league. The high-level shooting is accentuated by his handle, which is already at a very high level and allows him to get to his spots on the floor and create space when he gets there. He stands just 6’0 but weighs nearly 200 pounds; that extra strength manifests itself when he’s able to push off defenders with a well-timed forearm shiver before elevating for his jumper.
He has a scorer’s mentality, as evidenced by his sky-high usage rate in college, but he’s also quite useful as an off-ball threat. He moves well without the ball, a relatively rare skill for someone who has the ball in his hands as often as he did for Purdue. He logged nearly 250 possessions in 2018-19 in spot-up or off-screen situations and can be used primarily in that role if he’s playing in a lineup with another ball handler, though that will be more of a secondary role for him, assuming that the scoring translates as well as it should.
At his height, finishing at the rim is going to be a long-term concern. He’s strong enough to absorb contact and finish, but at this point is more of a two-level scorer (mid-range and three-point) than a full-blown three-level scorer. It’s difficult to see his finishing becoming an asset for him given how small he is. He scored just about one point per possession on finishes around the basket this season and clearly prefers to pull up for a jumper instead of getting all the way to the rim. He also has very little floater game to speak of; that will be a point of emphasis in his development at the next level. It’s not an absolute certainty that he’ll be able to translate his scoring from college to the pros. He’s not the shiftiest athlete and relies on physicality and a tight handle to create space for himself, but a lack of high-end athleticism puts a cap on his upside in this area.
Another area in which his scorer’s mentality shines through is in his playmaking, which is really poor at this stage and hasn’t really improved throughout his time at Purdue. Despite ticking up his usage nearly seven points from his sophomore to junior years, his overall assist percentage actually went down more than a full percentage point. He’s a scorer through and through, with the ability to make only the most basic reads in pick-and-roll. This missing piece, above all else, is what holds him back from being a true starting-level point guard prospect.
If there’s some upside to his playmaking, it’s that teams will be so focused on stopping him as a scorer that he’ll have plenty of opportunity to develop his passing acumen. If he commands the respect of a shooter with limitless range, he won’t have to make a ton of high-level reads and a larger number of the basic passes he can make will be available to him. If the shooting doesn’t quite translate all the way, then he could find himself in some difficulty, but he should still be able to carve out a nice career as a scoring guard off the bench.
Defensive ability and upside are nearly non-existent with Edwards. He’s got a decent wingspan for his position and may have some success overpowering fellow small point guards, but put him up against anybody with a height advantage and things get dicey very quickly. He’ll be a negative on that end of the floor throughout his career and teams are going to actively hunt him game in and game out, especially in a playoff setting. If he’s on the floor to close a playoff game someday, you can be sure he’s out there for his offensive contributions, not his defense.
Edwards is a really useful player to take late in the first round or early in the second with a clear path toward playing time as a backup lead guard with a heavy focus on scoring the basketball. Should he reach his potential as a scorer, his team will be able to concoct defense-first lineups around him and plan to ride his individual offensive brilliance to beating opponents until the starters come back in the game. Add in the upside that his scoring would translate so incredibly well to the point that he’s impossible to keep off the floor and he’s able to complement his scoring with rudimentary playmaking and he’s worth a shot in a draft with very few players with that sort of upside. He’s clearly separated from guards Darius Garland and Coby White further up the board, but in terms of value for where he’s chosen, Edwards might turn out to be the best of the bunch.