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2021 NBA Draft scouting report: Kessler Edwards

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 08 WCC Tournament - Pepperdine v BYU Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Peachtree Hoops continues its series of NBA Draft scouting reports, with this edition profiling Kessler Edwards out of Pepperdine.

Currently ranked No. 45 on ESPN’s big board at the time of writing, Pepperdine’s Kessler Edwards represents one of the best values in the draft, to my eyes, with his 3&D skill set and positional versatility at forward. A recent trend in the NBA has been to downsize at the power forward position with 6’8-6’9 shooters who can hold their own defensively, with Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson, and Dorian Finney-Smith serving as good examples. Indeed, much of the small ball revolution in the NBA has been about reforming this traditionally paint-bound position in the aim of creating better spacing.

Players who can knock down an open three while also having the mobility to chase around perimeter players have long careers. They serve as nice compliments to anchor bigs like Clint Capela, providing more space for them to roll and cut to the rim, as well as generally fitting within the broad picture of a spread pick-and-roll attack, with three perimeter players providing shooting around the central action.

Edwards, who stands at 6’8 in shoes and boasts a career 39% mark from deep over three NCAA seasons, fits the profile of the archetype described above. A 3&D forward with the ability to play both forward positions, Edwards has the look of a player who can have a long career, as teams are always looking for versatile forwards who can shoot and defend. With only 15 roster spots available to teams, players like Edwards are attractive options for filling out a roster because they fit everywhere.

Offensive Analysis

  • Edwards’ likely primary offensive role in the NBA is that of a floor spacer. For his career, he shot just under 40% from beyond the arc on 380 attempts; this is a generally reliable shooting profile for a prospect, since often sample sizes are smaller than his. He’s a likely bet to shoot at the NBA level, albeit not an elite shooter.
  • Despite having good numbers as a shooter, some scouts have concerns about his unconventional shot mechanics. Edwards has a lot of “lean” on his shot and his lower body mechanics are awkward, often landing with one leg well ahead of the other. This atypical shot form plays a big role in why Edwards is not seen as a consensus first round prospect.
  • Although it’s not likely he will be featured in the post often in the pros, Edwards is a pretty good post scorer, having scored 1.16 points per possession (95th percentile) there in his final season at Pepperdine, per Synergy. Having the ability to post a small when needed is a valuable supplementary skill.

Defensive Analysis

  • Has the size to be able to defend forwards of all types. With a 6’11 wingspan, Edwards posted a career block rate of just under 5% - a great mark for a forward - giving him some secondary rim protection utility.
  • Although I’m confident in him being a successful team defender at the next level, I have some concerns about his foot speed when defending in space that could restrict his assignments to a degree. But this is nitpicking - he’s a strong defender.

Fit with Hawks

Edwards fits on any team for the simple reason that every team is looking for this sort of player to fill out roster spots. Consider the role that Solomon Hill played last season for Atlanta - although injuries were the biggest factor in why he got so much playing time, his smart team defense and ability to play both forward spots made him a regular feature in Atlanta’s rotation because these players are harder to find than you might think.

However, the drawback in his play was his inability to reliably convert threes; this is the area where Edwards offers improvement. Take a player with Hill’s ability to put in a shift on D and add more shooting and you have a real rotation player. This is the upside Edwards offers and it’s why I would give him a late first round grade and it’s why I think he could be a steal for the Hawks should he drop to them in the second round.