Credit: AFP-Scanpix
Credit AFP-Scanpix

After a disappointing season in the EuroLeague, Fenerbahce Beko was one of the most active clubs during the summer. The big reshuffle for Fenerbahce is about to take its final shape, but each and every day, The Canaries keep coming up with some intriguing moves.

Carsen Edwards

Carsen  Edwards
Position: PG
Age: 24
Height: 180 cm
Weight: 91 kg
Birth place: Houston, United States of America

The latest one is Carsen Edwards. 

The name itself immediately rings a bell for the ones who follow college basketball closely. Edwards was one of the most prolific guards of the NCAA Tournament in 2019, where Purdue came to close to beating the eventual winner Virginia in the Last Eight. 

His 42 points (of the team's 75 in total) and 10/19 threes fell short of a ticket for Final Four, but he went on to get drafted in the NBA Draft that summer and joined the Boston Celtics

He gained significant experience in Brad Stevens rotations, albeit in a limited manner. It was not the perfect role and responsibility mixture for Edwards, as through 2 seasons, he played 73 games, averaging 8:43 minutes per game.

Every time, he was behind Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Brad Wanamaker, Dennis Schroder, or Payton Pritchard.  

Finally, he closed his career chapter in the US by becoming the scoring champion of the G-League at Salt Lake City Stars. The produced numbers have been impressive - 23.3 points, 4.2 assists, 36.3% 3 FG, and 45% FG accuracy per game. Out of 43 games, 12 times, Edwards finished with 30 or more points. 

Could that prolific stats be smoothly translated into EuroLeague?

Marial Shayok was the top scorer in the G-League, back in 2020, and he carried a part of that success to BSL with Bursaspor throughout 2020-21. But he could not keep his place in the rotation at Fenerbahce Beko and failed to live up to expectations at the EuroLeague level. 

The comparison is not fair because Shayok and Edwards are completely different players in terms of style and skill set, but that gives us some context on the transition between the two different leagues. 

First and foremost, the Fenerbahce fans and the coaching staff might need some patience with Edwards and give time and space for him to make the required adaptation in Europe.

Not many people remember those days, but Shane Larkin had a lot of difficulties in his first year in EuroLeague with Baskonia. Shane was Shane but not as sharp as he is today behind the arc. He was quick and agile but prone to so many turnovers, and his teammates struggled to adapt to his tempo.

So it was a process for Larkin to understand what it is demanded of him in the Euro game once he returned from the Celtics. Later, Larkin joined Anadolu Efes and rose to greatness at the Euroleague level. He learned how to read the game rhythm, make shifts in the pace accordingly, sharpened his shot, and adapted to the surrounding environment. 

Coming back to our subject matter, Carsen Edwards is a rapid combo guard, even smaller than Shane Larkin (1.83 to 1.80). The size matters aside, the physicality that the EuroLeague demands will not be easy to adjust. 

For instance, Edwards usually takes jumpers instead of driving to the rim for a layup and does not look comfortable with the finishes when a big rim protector is hovering around.

Throughout his career, which includes 2380 shots in NCAA, G-League, and NBA, he took 1138 of them behind the arc. So, nearly 47% of all shots were taken as 3-pointers. He was shooting with 46% accuracy around the rim, which makes up for 33% of all his career attempts.

To give a comparative perspective, the same finishing rate around the rim was 56% for Nando De Colo, 54% for Vasilje Micic, and 50% for Shane Larkin in the last 3 seasons. With a wider perspective, that might be limiting Edwards' options to contribute other than outer zones of the perimeter.

However, there are many positive sides that Edwards could potentially bring to Fenerbahce's guard rotations. 

Firstly, he hit those 3-pointers with an accuracy of 35% in his career, which is very encouraging. For the past season alone, he hit 38% from both corners (8-21), 35% from the top of the arc, and 40% from the right wing.

The left wing is kind of his weak spot, where he made only 30% of his shots throughout his career (and 28% in the last season). Still, after attempting more than 1000 shots, being close to the 35% mark is not bad at all. 

Beyond the 3-point accuracy, Edwards brings variety and offers a wide spectrum of different combinations.

Both Scottie Wilbekin and Carsen Edwards might play as the primary ball handlers who initiate the offensive plays as well as an off guard who can sneak around the screens and hit catch and shoots efficiently. 

The pick&roll part has particular importance because this was the department where Fenerbahce suffered the most in the offense. Wilbekin came earlier as a potential remedy for these woes, and Edwards has some good skills in that.

He also can read the action quickly and react accordingly. With a slight delay in the defensive reaction, whether it's a switch, a hedge, or an ill-positioned drop-in, Edwards does not blink a second to pull the trigger. 

At the Salt Lake City Stars, Edwards was the leading pick&roll ball handler and produced 1.09 points with 0.2 turnovers per possession on 7.1 possessions per game. All are very good rates. Still trailing behind Wilbekin on this rate where the US-Turkish guard put down 1.14 points per possession, but that is a strong duo for mastering pick and rolls. 

Besides, you can combine Edwards with a point guard who comes with sharpened roles, perhaps more defense-oriented like Ismet Akpinar and Sehmus Hazer.

In that case, he can use his catch and shoot skills, which he is very accustomed to from his college days, where he hit 41% from the right wing and 46% from the top, as a catch and shoot or screen-off option. 

When it comes to defensive matters, that's when it gets tricky because Edwards is not known for his stellar defense on pick&roll situations and help rotations.

That is why Dimitris Itoudis will probably need to give extra assignments to Dyshawn Pierre and Marko Guduric to exert some safety measures on the perimeter.

Fenerbahce will surely miss Pierria Henry here, but Scottie Wilbekin's underrated defense might also help to compensate for the shorthanded situation when Edwards is also on the court.

Also, Fenerbahce would need to switch in the pick&rolls when Edwards is on the court, and for that task, Tonye Jekiri, an eloquent switcher big, will be heavily missioned. 

But we need to give credit to Edwards for his willingness to contest shots around the 3-point territory. Also, he keeps high awareness to add some cunning steals into his statistics box and help his team to get another extra possession. 

To summarize, adding Carsen Edwards would aggravate the transformation of Fenerbahce's new playing identity from a defensive to an offensive mindset. Rather than a rim-driver or ball distributor, Edwards is a shooter who needs rhythm and a high level of possessions.

He has the star quality and does not hesitate to make bold decisions by trying early shots, going for risky but flashy isolation plays, and offers an attractive brand of basketball.

His combination with other Fenerbahce guards, like Wilbekin, looks compatible with his playing qualities. The duo has great potential to amaze the crowds and re-ignite Fenerbahce's strong fanbase.

His defense and organizational skills have a lot of room for improvement, and working with Itoudis can certainly help that. 

That is a B+ addition overall. 

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