Who is Kessler Edwards?

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JANUARY 20: Kessler Edwards #14 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on before the game against the Utah Jazz on January 20, 2023 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

As it turns out, last Tuesday’s trade that brought Kessler Edwards to the Kings was the extent of Sacramento’s deadline activity.

Following the decision to waive Chima Moneke and after bringing in both PJ Dozier and Deonte Burton for evaluation, Edwards looks like he’ll reside in that final roster spot barring the Kings acquiring a buyout candidate.

So who is Kessler Edwards?

In a nutshell, he’s a 6’7″ wing with a 6’11” wingspan who the Nets drafted in 2021 with the 44th overall selection.

At his post-trade deadline press conference, Monte McNair said that Edwards was someone he and assistant GM Wes Wilcox were tracking for a while, stretching back to the wing’s days at Pepperdine.

As a three-star recruit out of high school in the Southern California area, Edwards spent three years at the same college Doug Christie attended. There, he averaged 13.3 points on 46.9% shooting from the field and 39.5% from three with 6.5 rebounds per game, making solid progress with each year.

He closed out his college career as a member of the first-team All-WCC, averaging 17.2 points on 49.1% shooting and 37.8% from three.

One draft profile, he was described as “a late bloomer,” one that “has put on muscle each year of college.” He was 203 lbs. coming out of Pepperdine, but in his second professional season, he’s listed at 215 lbs.

It also noted that he’s a smart off-ball player who finds open spots on the perimeter and utilizes a quick, repeatable shooting stroke even as he “has unorthodox lower body movement in his set up.” As noted he shot 39.5% from three in his time in college, and he actually shot an impressive 43.7% from deep in his second season.

Offensively, he’s not a creator though. Off-ball—coming off screens, spotting up, cutting—he’s was well touted, but there was never much hope in any ability to score very well off the dribble or facilitate (1.2 assists per game in college).

But with his three-point shot came his size and athleticism, which everyone realized created the potential for a nice 3-and-D player. His versatility and quickness was evident, and so was his ability to disrupt shots, but he needed some polishing in terms of fundamentals.

After being drafted by the Nets, he was signed to a two-way deal, splitting time between the NBA and the G League. But in that first season, he actually played the majority of his time with Brooklyn with all the health and safety protocols affecting the team’s roster, playing 48 games for them and starting 23 of them. That year, in over 20 minutes per appearance, he averaged 5.6 points with 3.6 rebounds and shot 41.2% from the field and 35.3% from deep (those percentages were only marginally higher in his limited time with the Long Island Nets). 

One writer called Edwards “Brooklyn’s rookie stopper” as the kid began to impress when considerable minutes and starts came his way. He was guarding guys like DeMar DeRozan and Brandon Ingram with success. 

That same writer noted that a rookie Edwards was susceptible to undisciplined defense against pump fakes and that sometimes has some breakdowns, but the promise of this second-round selection seemed to sweep across the Nets fanbase.

In late January of his rookie year, with all the buzz, Edwards was shooting 42.6% from three. In his time with Long Island, his shot mechanics had been adjusted; that is, the “unorthodox” motion in his lower half. It appeared to pay off, but in the final 33 games of the season, his three-point production dipped, shooting 30.5% from that range.

Still, he was very impressive as a rookie second rounder who was forced to assume more responsibility. 

This season—his second—did not feature the same tread at the highest level. Edwards appeared in just 14 games for the Nets this year prior to the trade. He’d gotten some chances in the first month, but his opportunities were sporadic as he did not force himself into the rotation. In his NBA time this year, he was shooting 25.0% from the field and 16.7% from three in about 5 minutes per.

He did play 14 games for Long Island in the G League with more encouraging numbers. He’s averaged 16.9 points on 48.6% from the field and 40.0% from deep with 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

With better continuity playing mostly in the G League in January, Edwards hit 28 of 65 three’s (43.15), possibly hinting that the back-and-forth nature of a two-way deal did not help his production. He was so impressive in his rookie season because he stayed mostly in one place.

So now he’s on the Kings. Adrian Wojnarowksi tweeted upon the deal being completed that Sacramento was looking to “give Edwards an opportunity to play with their G League affiliate in Stockton.”

While he could spend time in Stockton, one can’t help wondering if he can’t help the NBA club.

On Friday night in the first game against Dallas, Mike Brown went to Keon Ellis early, looking for some help on the perimeter defensively. The undrafted rookie, despite being a prized prospect, did not look all that great. There is a void Edwards can fill.

After the loss on Friday, coach Brown described his desire for bolstering the perimeter defense with the right combination in the rotation and what he’s looking for:

“A little consistency, especially on the defensive end of the floor,” he said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well and we still scored 114 points … so I’m looking for somebody who can stay in front of the basketball and not have too many mental (errors) defensively more than anything else.”

The Kings at least see Kessler Edwards as an option.

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