Though he managed to crack the rotation at the end of the regular season and provide some necessary defense on the wing, there is still plenty of room to grow for Kessler Edwards, which is why it’s so encouraging that he competed in Summer League in spite of being what could be called a true NBA player.
Acquired as the lone trade deadline acquisition in February, Edwards did not initially excite many, but he proved to be a low-risk, high-reward addition, offering plenty of benefits as a steady piece of the roster. Partaking in this Summer League supports the idea that the rewards can continue to multiply for the Kings.
But there is a limit as we’ll get to.
So with that, here’s a peek at what Kessler Edwards displayed at the California Classic and in Las Vegas…
As noted and as everyone who watched him last season already knows, Edwards is a gifted defender, and against the diminished competition of Summer League—especially as a player with two full NBA seasons under his belt—he exhibited some beautiful play both on the ball and off it.
Starting with off-ball defense, Edwards was a rock. His rotations were sharp and disruptive for the opposing offense. Knowing where to go and how to seamlessly help without fouling is a strength of his, regardless if it’s in the half court or in transition.
Not only is his feel for defensive rotations extremely robust, perhaps the most appealing thing is his fearlessness when doing so. On one particular instance, Edwards rotated for a tough contest that did not ultimately pay off as he was posterized. But that’s what makes the effort so great; he went to the right place and nearly executed the right contest in spite of the fact a guy was coming right at him at full speed and with a vengeance.
On-ball, there were a handful of examples where he’d stay with his guy using his athleticism while forcing a miss with his length. There were at least two instances where his routine defense forced airballs; he dominated a lot of the Summer League talent, again, as he should have.
Most encouraging was what Edwards did guarding some 4’s. The tall Mouhammed Gueye out of Washington State was aggressive for Atlanta, but the smaller Edwards guarded him well and once completely altered the other’s turnaround jumper in the post. It wasn’t a huge sample size, but Edwards demonstrated that he may be depended on to guard some bigger forwards this season, and versatility will help his chance for playtime among a deeper roster.
Vital to the notion of playing the 4 more, Edwards was also a joy to watch on the glass. He did a great job of using his slipperiness to come down with rebounds or get some put backs. More of an insight into how he may be expanding his game and versatility was the fact he battled admirably with bigger guys in order to box out.
His effort was terrific, but his strength could still use some work as there were several moments where he was clearly outmuscled.
Edwards’ outside shooting came around after a few games. He did not hit any of his attempts in Sacramento during the California Classic, but they eventually began to fall. In 4 Vegas games, he hit 38.1% of his three’s. If he can hit something close to that clip this season, he may be earning a fair amount of minutes. Remember, he shot about 35% last season with the Kings.
Still, it was revealing that his first made three of the summer was a less attractive bank shot. And overall, he missed some quality looks.
Still, he was aggressive, which was a goal of his throughout the whole summer according to an in-game, sideline interview he did at one of the Las Vegas contests. And his aggressiveness expanded beyond just hoisting the three’s that were there for the taking.
Before diving into the execution, it’s fair to say Edwards had a good feel of when to be aggressive. There were some times where he looked spectacular putting the ball on the floor, making the right move and getting a bucket to go. Typically, that happened on floaters and pull-up mid-rangers, but he also had a few makes at the rim.
Still his execution was not always on. Even more so than just making the right choice and missing, Edwards often just let his goal for aggressiveness steer him directly into turnovers.
Off of that, another knock on Edwards—and one that did not seem all that evident in his time with the Kings last season—is how blunder-prone he proved to be. Whether he was slipping, exhibiting butterfingers, walking with the ball, or missing point blank looks, Edwards had a lot of silly mistakes that can’t necessarily be ascribed to overaggressiveness.
Of course, the way he demonstrated his aggressiveness is unlikely to be called for in his NBA minutes. Under Mike Brown, he’ll be that defensive-minded role player that will be asked to hit open shots and run the floor, which is what he was last season. But some of these errors in Summer League are the kind that could occur in his prospective role, so he’ll have to make sure that tendency was an outlier this summer.
In terms of the organization’s culture and his work ethic as a player, it was a great thing for the Kings that he partook in Summer League. But he clearly evinced the notion that he won’t ever surpass the modest ceiling that stands above him.
Still, Edwards showed that he is going to be that steady option for Mike Brown to have at his disposal, which is not a shocker. How much play he actually gets depends on his own shooting and versatility as well as the performances of others, such as Chris Duarte, who clearly has a capability to play a few gears above Edwards in terms of overall impact.
Nevertheless, Kessler Edwards continued to show how solid of a player he is and how great of a pick up he was five or six months ago.