Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green is having an amazing summer. The 25-year-old won his first NBA championship in June and then inked a five-year deal worth $82 million in July. Since then, he has been loving life and enjoying the perks that come with being a high-paid champion.
Recently, Green made a record-setting $3.1 million donation to his former school, Michigan State University, and brought the Larry O’Brien trophy on campus so students and faculty could take pictures with it. While Green has been busy this summer, he has also been working extremely hard in preparation for the 2015-16 season, as he’s determined to continue his development and help the Warriors repeat as champions.
Basketball Insiders recently had the chance to chat with Green about his championship, crazy summer, free agency experience, offseason training, donation to MSU, Defensive Player of the Year snub and more in this exclusive interview.
Basketball Insiders: First of all, how does it feel to be a champion? I know you’ve been having a lot of fun since winning it all, taking the trophy different places and things like that. Now, you’ll always be introduced as ‘NBA champion Draymond Green.’ How much are you enjoying this?
Draymond Green: “It’s cool. It’s an amazing accomplishment to have. Like you said, every time your name is mentioned, it’s ‘NBA champion Draymond Green’ or ‘World champion Draymond Green.’ It’s great! But at this point in my career, I want more. It was good for the first two months, but now it’s time to get ready for training camp and try to do it again. If I was a guy in my 13th year or something, then I’d feel like, ‘Man, I finally got one.’ But I just finished my third year and I feel like there is much more for me to accomplish in my career. So it was great, and it is still great – I’m not taking anything away from it at all because it’s phenomenal. But, at the same time, I want more. Now, I’m in a mode now where I’m like, ‘Forget that championship; let’s try to get another one.’”
Basketball Insiders: That leads to my next question for you. Some teams get complacent after winning a title. They’re content with that one championship and don’t play as well that next season. But with you guys, it seems like you’re all really hungry and have something to prove. I wrote about that recently – talking about how you guys were historically good and seem poised to be even better, yet all of a sudden people are talking about Cleveland being a favorite because they’re healthy or San Antonio being a favorite because of their offseason moves. Do you guys kind of feel like you’re being disrespected a bit as the defending champs coming into the year? And does that motivate you at all?
Draymond Green: “I mean, I definitely think there is some disrespect going on. But at the end of the day, there will never be an asterisk next to our title in the record books, so it is what it is. And we don’t need any more motivation. We want to repeat, because the feeling of winning that championship was too good. So we don’t need anybody to say, ‘Oh, Cleveland is healthy!’ or, ‘The Spurs have done this and that!’ It is what it is; that’s the NBA. People make moves and people get hurt – that’s the game we play. At the end of the day, it is what it is, but that’s not going to motivate us because we were already motivated and we are looking forward to defending our title and trying to win another.”
Basketball Insiders: How much better could the Warriors be next year? As you mentioned, you just finished your third year. You, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli are all 25 years old or younger. Steve Kerr is going into his second year as a head coach and he’s poised to improve and you guys will be more comfortable under him. Not to mention, you brought everyone back so with that continuity, your chemistry should be better. Your team could significantly improve next year and I think a lot of people are forgetting that. How much better can you guys play this year compared to last year?
Draymond Green: “I think we could get a lot better. At the end of the day, what Coach Kerr always preaches on the offensive end is flow. And I think that flow gets better with time because you understand, ‘I’m going to get my shot here,’ and, ‘If I move the ball, it’s going to come back to me,’ and all of that stuff. You understand all of that better in year two. In our first year with Coach Kerr and our first year in that offense, it was different. I mean, if somebody tells you to pass up an open shot [but] you’re going to get it back, you’re not used to that. You’re thinking, ‘Uh, why should I pass up this shot?’ At this point though, we understand it now. That makes a difference, so I think we can get a lot better. I think we are going to get a lot better and I think the sky is the limit for this group and for this organization.”
Basketball Insiders: Let’s talk about your free agency process. First of all, congratulations on your five-year, $82 million contract. What was it like to go through free agency? I know some players love it and some players hate it. And restricted free agency is obviously pretty rough for some guys. Fortunately for you, your deal got done pretty quickly and all along it was pretty clear you would be going back to the Warriors. What was your free agency process like?
Draymond Green: “It wasn’t much. I talked to one other team and that was really not a serious conversation at all [because] I knew where I wanted to be. I knew where I was going to be and my focus was to have my agent, B.J. Armstrong, work with the Warriors and get a deal done. That was the main focus. I talked to Joe [Lacob]. I talked to Peter [Guber]. I knew where I was going to be, I knew where home was, and we got it done. It was great that the Warriors stepped up to the plate and got it done in the fashion that they did, where I didn’t have to sign an offer sheet or anything like that and we just got the deal done. It says a lot about the Warriors as an organization, it says a lot about Peter and Joe as an ownership group, it says a lot about the front office with Bob [Myers], Kirk [Lacob], and Travis [Schlenk] and everyone else. I’m one of their guys and they stepped up to the plate and got it done. That meant a lot to me.”
Basketball Insiders: Was that other team you talked to the Detroit Pistons? I’m just curious because there was some talk about you going home and you had some other connections to the Pistons as well [Editor’s Note: Green’s former agent, Arn Tellem, joined Detroit’s ownership group as Vice Chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment.]
Draymond Green: “That other team was not Detroit. I’d rather not say [the team.]”
Basketball Insiders: You kind of embraced a villain role last season and I loved it. One of my favorite quotes from the playoffs was when you were asked about being a villain and you were smiling and nodding as you talked about loving that role. Do you like getting under the opposition’s skin and being that guy who no one wants to play against but loves having on their team?
Draymond Green: “I mean, it’s fun! Like you said, nobody wants to play against you, but the guys on your team love you. And that’s all that matters: that your teammates love you, that they want to go to battle with you and that they are there for you. If nobody else [around the league] likes me, well, they’re not helping me win a championship anyway. If your teammates like you or love you, that’s all that is important. When people want to paint you as the villain and you’re getting booed in Memphis or getting booed in Cleveland, it is what it is. I enjoy it. I mean, it’s fun to me.”
Basketball Insiders: Since signing your contract, have you made any big purchases?
Draymond Green: “Yeah I made a big purchase: a $3.1 million donation! (laughs)”
Basketball Insiders: Yes, let’s talk about that! That’s an excellent purchase. For those who don’t know, you donated $3.1 million to Michigan State University, which Forbes reported is the largest donation ever made by an active professional athlete to his or her former school. Why did you choose to make that donation? Most players who get a big pay day buy something nice for themselves, but that’s extremely selfless of you and I thought that was very cool. How did you make that decision?
Draymond Green: “I mean, this is the university that I love. I love Coach [Tom] Izzo. I love [Athletic Director] Mark Hollis. I love [President] Dr. Lou Anna K. Simon. They’ve all been there for me and I talk to guys all of the time – because everyone knows I’m a talkative person – and when you talk to guys and ask about their colleges, some guys cannot even get in touch with their [former] coaches. I can get in touch with our athletic director and I can get in touch with our president whenever I want and that’s special. So it was a no-brainer for me to give back to this university because they’ve done so much for me, getting me into the position I’m in. I want to give back and possibly help the guys who come after me get to the same position I’m in, where they could live their dream just like I’m living mine. The university has done so much for me. I’m not where I’m at today without this university. I’m not where I’m at today without Coach Izzo. I’m not where I’m at today without Mark Hollis placing us on the platform that he placed us on, putting us on an aircraft carrier [for the Carrier Classic] and putting us in the biggest games possible. I’m not where I’m at today without Lou Anna K. Simon doing everything she does for the university. I’m thankful and I wanted to show my gratitude in a way that helps the university; not just me doing an interview or going on the radio and saying, ‘Oh, Michigan State has done this for me.’ I thought, ‘What can I do for Michigan State?’ I’m really tight with [former MSU player] Travis Walton and we always talk about relationships. One thing he always says is, ‘My granddad always told me a good relationship is give/take. It’s never take/take and it’s never give/give.’ So I always give/take. Obviously, the relationship is great between the university and I. But it was give/take, with them giving to me and me taking. So now I’m giving and they are taking, and that’s how it should be.”
Basketball Insiders: That’s a great way of looking at it and I love that explanation. Switching gears a bit, what are you working on this summer in terms of your game? I know this offseason has been busy, but you’ve obviously been working out a lot too. What aspects of your game are you focused on improving this summer?
Draymond Green: “Well, I definitely want to improve my jump shot; it obviously got better last year, but I want it to continue to get better. Also, I’m really trying to improve my post game. Teams like to switch on me every now and then and I think in the playoffs I did a great job of taking advantage of drives, but I want to score on the bigs in the post as well. Those are a couple of things I’ve been working on.”
Basketball Insiders: I’m glad you mentioned playing in the post. You kind of changed the league last year by being able to go down low, play multiple positions and even defend centers very well at times. People used to say that you were a tweener without a position and you changed that to turn it into a positive thing by being able to play all over the floor. One thing that I found interesting is that at this year’s NBA draft combine, many of the players who didn’t have a certain position, they said would say that they model their game after you and could be a ‘Draymond-Green-like player who is versatile and impacts both ends of the floor.’ You know you have arrived when you start to hear college players and high school players compare themselves to you. You playing center and thriving in super small ball is making the whole league have to adapt to you and the Warriors. What does it mean for you to have that kind of impact on the league?
Draymond Green: “It’s cool because it has changed the way people view the game, and transcended the game. That’s cool! Michael Jordan transcended the game. Magic Johnson transcended the game. You talk about names that transcended the game and then everybody says, ‘Oh, you did this and you did that for the league and now everybody is doing it,’ and that really is cool. Am I Michael Jordan? Absolutely not! Am I Magic Johnson? Hell no! (laughs) But at the end of the day, you find your way to leave your mark on the game and maybe I found a way to leave my mark. That’s cool, but I also know that the work isn’t done.”
Basketball Insiders: To be making that kind of impact in year three is pretty damn good. How much more room do you feel like you have to improve? Because, from the outside looking in, it seems like you could still grow a lot since you’re only 25 years old. How much better can you be?
Draymond Green: “I think I’ve got a lot of room left for improvement and I’m going to continue to work and continue to get better. I don’t think I’m anywhere near my prime yet and there’s a lot of room left to grow. So I’m going to keep working and continue to try to reach that.
Basketball Insiders: Many people felt that you should have been Defensive Player of the Year last season, including myself. Now, I know winning another title is the ultimate goal, but does not getting that award motivate you and is that a goal for you coming into this year?
Draymond Green: “It’s definitely something that I want to accomplish. But obviously it [comes down to] someone else’s opinion so it’s not something that you can control. But yes, it’s definitely a goal of mine.”
For more Basketball Insiders Q&As, check out our interviews with Portland’s Damian Lillard, Los Angeles’ Lou Williams and New York’s Kyle O’Quinn among others. Later this week, be sure to check out our upcoming interviews with Los Angeles’ Blake Griffin, Portland’s C.J. McCollum and NBA trainer Idan Ravin.
NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Cleveland Cavaliers
Spencer Davies opens Basketball Insiders team-by-team “Grading The Offseason” series with an overview of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Monday night in Las Vegas, the 2019 NBA Summer League champions will be crowned. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies are set to square off at the Thomas & Mack Center as the last teams standing over the course of the 10-day period.
Once that winner is determined, the world will be without NBA basketball for quite some time. Though the FIBA World Cup will be fun to watch, it’s not until late September that the association returns for training camp.
In order to hold you over until that date, Basketball Insiders has begun a “Grading The Offseason” series, featuring in-depth analysis on how each franchise has done during this wild summer.
To start things off, we’re going to break down arguably the quietest team of them all regarding roster turnover—the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’s no secret that, on the floor, the season didn’t go quite as expected. Following the second departure of LeBron James, the organization felt it had enough remnants of the conference championship team to move forward and compete while developing young talent under head coach Tyronn Lue. A detrimental injury to Kevin Love changed that quickly.
Lue was fired six games into the 2018-19 campaign and then the wheels fell off pretty quickly. Top assistant Larry Drew pushed for a raise to take the interim role, due to the mixed bag inside of the locker room, and he was granted one. But as the losses piled up, the internal battle between the veterans and the younger players grew. Most of the criticism shaded toward upstart rookie Collin Sexton, yet he later proved what he was capable of to some of those teammates later down the road.
There were bright spots when Love re-entered the picture around February and played until late March, as he helped steer the inexperienced youngsters like Sexton, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic in the direction of winning basketball. When all was said and done, the final record was ugly. However, the energy surrounding the group was clearly in a much more positive light than it had been beforehand.
What shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle is the job Cavaliers’ general manager Koby Altman and his staff did to revamp the team’s salary cap situation. Entering the year with inflated contracts, via veterans that didn’t want to sit through a rebuild, moves had to be made to tighten up the locker room and lower the cap a significant amount. Ultimately, they were successful in doing so.
Cleveland was able to move Kyle Korver, George Hill, Sam Dekker, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks (acquired in the Korver trade) and turned that into Brandon Knight, Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson, Nik Stauskas and a boatload of future draft picks. Altman’s been in asset accumulation mode since he took over during LeBron’s last season, and he’s done wonders with the opportunity to chop down those loud figures on the cap sheet, even adding future capital in the process.
Not only has Altman done a great job in obtaining that, but he’s also turned “good” into “great” often—i.e. turning Korver into Burks which he then flipped for a 2019 first-round pick, using the second-rounders to acquire another first-round pick. Even landing Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson at the 2018 trade deadline to kickstart a new direction was impressive.
After parting ways with Drew at season’s end, the Cavaliers set a new course with the hiring of John Beilein in mid-May. Over the span of these past few months, he’s constructed a fresh coaching staff with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff as his associate, University of California women’s head coach Lindsay Gottlieb and five-year Utah Jazz assistant Antonio Lang in complementary roles.
Beilein’s graduate assistant at Michigan, Jay Shunnar, is also a part of the staff. Team favorites Mike Gerrity and Dan Geriot are staying on as well to continue developing the players they’ve worked with.
All in all, the people assembled to take on this task of changing a culture are entrenched in teaching and doing hands-on work. It’s the on-court product with an extremely inexperienced group of coaches—three of which are coming from the collegiate level—that could be a challenge. Luckily, the process seems to be about a collective group with an open-mindedness that won’t allow for egos to get in the way.
Despite the lottery results going south (Cleveland had the second-best odds in the top three and dropped to five), draft night was a smashing success for the organization. The wine and gold came out with a trio of highly touted rookies—Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and, after trades were officially cleared, Kevin Porter Jr. Adding talents to the roster was the top priority for the front office — today, that stands as the most noise from what’s been a mostly silent offseason.
With a lack of roster spots and an understanding that there would be little money to spend in a chaotic, competitive free-agent market, the Cavaliers have had to stand pat with what they have. JR Smith’s contract had reportedly fielded some offers between NBA Draft Combine time and around the draft, but the team didn’t like the idea of taking back a bad contract. Instead, they found an easier way to get a third pick in the 2019 first round by using the plethora of second-rounders acquired in the past to flip for Porter.
Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reported Monday that Cleveland plans on waiving and stretching Smith’s contract for $1.4 million each over the next three years. The move will allow the team to stay under the luxury tax, avoid the repeater tax penalty and also provides a full mid-level exception amount at its disposal. Fedor does mention the front office won’t likely use it heading into the season to remain flexible financially and to keep a roster spot open.
Smith not being traded came as a surprise to many, especially knowing the salary relief his previously-grandfathered CBA deal offered to a team searching to clear space for a big free agency offer. The summer moved fast, though, and other franchises with similar predicaments acted quickly. The Cavaliers could’ve facilitated a few trades to get more future draft assets in return, but they didn’t feel like taking on an albatross contract that would’ve been worth paying the extra tax this upcoming season.
The only other real decision to make was whether or not to retain David Nwaba, who, when healthy, displayed flashes of defensive excellence and aggressiveness on the offensive end, Cleveland did not extend the qualifying offer to Nwaba before the deadline, making him an unrestricted free agent. He recently signed with the Brooklyn Nets on a two-year deal.
This move was not so surprising as Basketball Insiders reported at the beginning of June that Nwaba’s representation would be looking for a multi-year deal. A league source said that last summer’s one-year agreement between the Cavaliers and Nwaba was with the understanding that he’d be strictly looking for a newly re-structured multi-year contract with no qualifying offer in his 2019 plans.
The latest addition the franchise made was inking Dean Wade, an undrafted rookie from Kansas State, to a two-way contract. He played in five NBA Summer League games for the organization between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
PLAYERS IN: Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Kevin Porter Jr., Dean Wade (two-way)
PLAYERS OUT: JR Smith, Marquese Chriss, David Nwaba, Channing Frye
Following the waiving of Smith, the Cavaliers roster will be at 13 players. You’d imagine they wouldn’t keep two roster spots open, so seeing a free agent signing or even nabbing a player from a summer league team could be in the cards.
Per Fedor, the franchise will be above the $109 million salary cap by $22 million once the Smith news is made official by the team. It’s a much healthier number than they’ve been at in years past — so, going into next summer, that cap sheet is going to be as clean as it’s been in quite some time.
Cleveland is going to have numerous attractive contracts on its hands as five players on the roster are on deals set to expire following this year. Tristan Thompson ($18.5 million), Brandon Knight ($15.6 million), Jordan Clarkson ($13.4 million), John Henson ($9.7 million) and Matthew Dellavedova ($9.6 million) are all trade chips that Altman can move to stockpile the future even more. Depending on what offers come their way, it could be yet another busy season regarding roster turnover.
There’s plenty of speculation that the team should trade Love to a contender to both satisfy the player and allow the team to get out of his sizable deal. What people are forgetting is that the Cavaliers want to have a championship-caliber player in the locker room as a guiding voice. Remember, this team has one person that is at least the age of 30, and it is the All-Star big man. The next guys up are 28 years old—Henson, Dellavedova and Thompson—and who knows how long they’ll be around.
Cleveland will have to be blown away to take back what it thinks it should receive in return for Love. No deal will be made just to make a deal. The organization values him too much as a person and a player.
On the court, the focus is going to be on player development, mainly in watching how Sexton and Garland play off one another. Different looks and combinations with the frontcourt of Love, Nance Jr., Zizic, Windler and Osman will be available for Beilein to tinker with. A new coaching staff with a freshly enthused group of players should be intriguing to watch.
OFFSEASON GRADE: C-
Stay tuned to the rest of Basketball Insiders “Grading The Offseason” series over the next few weeks.
NBA Daily: Veterans Influencing Spurs Youngsters
Having NBA veterans that can ease young players into the league can be very helpful, which is why Thomas Robinson and Darius Morris have been nice additions to the Spurs’ summer league roster.
The Summer League is a time for many things.
It’s a time for young players to get a taste of what professional basketball is like. It’s a time for teams to evaluate what young talent they have their roster. Most importantly of all, it’s a time for growth.
The Summer League, whether it be in Salt Lake, Sacramento or Las Vegas, serves as a transition for the new blood. Most are either fresh out of college or just arrived into the country, who are also either just beginning or have recently begun their NBA career. Making that transition isn’t always seamless. As talented as some of these kids are, they are prone to make mistakes. That’s where having a veteran who has been around the block can help.
For this year’s summer league. San Antonio brought in two who fit the profile: Thomas Robinson and Darius Morris.
Morris has bounced around between the NBA and the G League since being drafted 41st overall by the Lakers back in 2011. He’s been around the league long enough that playing in the Summer League wasn’t originally in the plans. That all changed when the Spurs called him.
“They actually reached out to me and told me they were interested,” Morris said. “When an organization like the Spurs calls you, you can come in and show that you can blend in and the high character is going to follow you the rest of the way.”
Robinson has also been a journeyman since being selected sixth overall by the Kings back in 2012. Now that he has found himself on the Spurs, he praised the organization for its player development.
“To even get any type of time under anybody on this staff is helpful for any player,” Robinson said. “Whether it’s summer league, mini-camp, or the real roster, it’s always helpful to learn from these guys. They’re like the Mecca of NBA basketball.”
Not many can say that they are the veteran of a summer league team, but Morris not only has that role but also appears to have embraced it since coming on for the Spurs. So much so that even though he takes that responsibility seriously, he and his teammates can have a laugh about it.
“I joke with the guys that I’m transitioning to that vet stage like a little baby vet,” Morris said. “To be able to extend whatever knowledge to the young guys, and kind of getting me in that mode as opposed to being that guy that was drafted, just transitioning to being a mentor and just helping where I can.”
There are various ways in which those are designated as mentors decide to use their role. Some give very little advice while others give nothing but advice. For Morris, he has implemented a “trial by fire” strategy for his younger teammates.
“First, you want them to go out there and play freely,” Morris said. “You don’t want to give them too much advice at first. You just kind of sit back and just watch… You don’t want to put too many things in their ear. Everything is already going 100 miles per hour for you out there and as they go along, just give my advice as we go along.”
As the other veteran/mentor on the squad, Robinson’s approach is simple on the court – just being himself for the Spurs.
“I’m not trying to show that I can do anything different,” Robinson said. “I just want to show that I’m doing everything that they ask me to do the first time.”
Since coming to San Antonio, Robinson has gotten to know some of the Spurs’ young talent. He even took the time to praise some of the Spurs’ young talent – in particular, one of the Spurs’ most recent first-rounders, Keldon Johnson.
“‘Baby Russ’. That’s what I called him” Robinson said. “He doesn’t get tired. He’s super aggressive… He’s big, athletic. I definitely see the makings of a superstar.”
Both Morris and Robinson are leaving impressions with the younger players on their squad. The Spurs other first-rounder this season, Luka Samanic, spoke highly of what they’ve been able to do for him primarily with how he handles his mistakes.
“If I do one quick mistake in the beginning, then it affects my game later,” Samanic said. “So they’re all about ‘Don’t worry about mistakes. You’ll miss shots. It’s all normal here.’ So they helped me a lot with that.”
Blake Ahearn, who coached the Spurs at the Utah Summer League, praised both Robinson and Morris for the calming influence they have on the team.
“It’s huge,” Ahearn said. “Having some of those calming-presence guys on the floor helps those younger guys… That’s a good luxury for coaches to have.”
Spurs assistant Becky Hammon also heaped praise for the two veterans primarily for what they have been able to do for the Spurs’ young players off the court while also reiterating the value guys like that have on these teams.
“They’ve been talking to them in their ear the whole time about what it takes to be a professional and get opportunities,” Hammon said. “Their leadership on the court, off the court has been very helpful. Obviously, having guys like that in a situation like that is very helpful and invaluable.”
Now, undoubtedly, the goal for Robinson and Morris is to be in the NBA again. They’ve been there before and their willingness to play in the summer league shows that they’re not giving up on their dreams.
Regardless of whether they make it, they can take comfort that, in the end, they positively impacted the Spurs of tomorrow.
NBA Daily: Carsen Edwards Sending Good Vibrations in Las Vegas
Celtics rookie Carsen Edwards took Las Vegas by storm not only earning a multi-year contract but likely a significant role in Boston this coming season.
Las Vegas can be a scary place; just ask Carsen Edwards.
“Not to be dramatic, but I really thought I was about to die.”
Edwards, among a number of other players and NBA-related persons, found himself in the midst of two earthquakes – magnitude 6.7 and 7.1 – that rocked southern Nevada and California last week. “I was in my room by myself,” Edwards said, “and I’m on the 16th floor so, right then I’m thinking – and I know this sounds deep – how am I going to survive?”
Fortunately, for Edwards, his days reading about converting online betting odds in the Silver State may be numbered.
While the earthquakes may have shaken Las Vegas, the Purdue University product has sent the Boston Celtics his own good vibrations. Edwards has impressed mightily during his stint with the Summer League Celtics, so much so that, while fellow second-round pick Tremont Waters recently agreed to a two-way deal with Boston, the Celtics have reportedly are negotiating a full-time deal with the Edwards. And, while he has remained humble when questioned about his high-quality play, it’s hard to imagine that Edwards will see much more time in Las Vegas beyond the coming Summer League Tournament.
“My first experience was a blessing, man” Edwards told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so happy to be here, just to have this opportunity and put on that jersey and be out there.”
Edwards, a standout Boilermaker, has been a certified bucket-getter in his short Summer League tenure. Through four games (and two starts), the diminutive combo-guard has averaged 18 points to go along with 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and a steal in just 23 minutes per contest. Edwards has gotten to his spots on the floor with ease – when it hasn’t been easy, he’s simply put his head down and bullied his way there – and he certainly hasn’t been afraid to pull up from deep.
Edwards has also come along as a shooter since his last showing in the NCAA tournament. In three seasons with Purdue, Edwards posted field goal and three-point percentages of 41.2% and 36.8%, respectively. Since Edwards has proven himself one of the Summer League’s best and most consistent shooters; he has shot 52% from the floor and 48.4% from three-point range.
“I just try to make the right decisions,” Edwards said. “I just try to get into my space, places where I’m comfortable.”
Despite his relative inexperience against NBA-level competition, a continued ascent for Edwards – and an end to his Summer League career after just his rookie appearance – shouldn’t be put out of the question as players and teams head into next season and beyond.
And, while he may not have wanted to slip into the second round of June’s 2019 NBA Draft, Edwards may have hit the jackpot in landing with Boston.
While Head Coach Brad Stevens has struggled with certain aspects of coaching, he has never had a problem with maximizing the production of his guards. 2011’s Mr. Irrelevant, Isaiah Thomas, was a Most Valuable Player candidate in 2017, while Kyrie Irving, despite the reported unrest, posted arguably the two best statistical seasons of his career with the Celtics. Others, including Avery Bradley, Evan Turner and Jordan Crawford have flourished under his watch, and Edwards may be the next player to benefit from Stevens’ system.
Still, Edwards’ work is far from over, and he knows it. “It’s not the same [as in college],” he said as he pointed out that he still needed to focus on his defense, decisions making and consistency. “I’m still learning so much.”
“I know [the Boston Celtics] just want me to improve. Help the team win, but continue to try and improve and be consistent every game.”
Edwards isn’t the perfect prospect or one without his deficiencies by any means. They have yet to do so in the Summer League, and his strong, stocky build should help counteract this to a degree, but NBA competition will take advantage of Edwards’ 6-foot-flat height. And, if it wasn’t already obvious, Edwards is a score-first, pass later type of guard; while that necessarily isn’t a bad thing, given the role he should serve with the Celtics, Edwards’ passing ability must improve as he transitions to the NBA game.
“[NBA players] are more athletic, they have more length,” Edwards said. “Playing against those guys, it’s tough.”
As Edwards pointed out, it will, in fact, be tough for him. But, between the roster and coaching fit and his own talent, it’s as if everything has started to come together for the talented guard and it is there for the taking.
After his debut, Edwards noted his primary Summer League goal was to win. “I just want to make an impact on the team and just help us win,” Edwards said.
Should he take advantage of what’s in front of him, Edwards has the chance to be something special in the NBA, and he could help the Celtics do just that for a long time.
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