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In ESPN Rookie Power Rankings, three Nets in top 20 at midway point

New Orleans Pelicans v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

In ESPN’s Rookie Power Rankings for the first half of the season, Mike Schmitz puts three Nets — Kessler Edwards, Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe — in his top 20 and notes how Edwards gave his No. 1 ranked rook, Evan Mobley of the Cavs, problems on Monday.

Schmitz provided detailed analysis of his top 10, then listed his next 10 only by name. The Nets first-year players were ranked at Nos. 15 (Edwards); 17 (Thomas); and 19 (Sharpe) — all at least 10 places above where they were drafted back in July. Schmitz also gave kudos to Edwards defense on Mobley, the No. 3 pick, in Brooklyn’s loss to Cleveland Monday night, noting the seven-footer “had some issues on Monday creating against Brooklyn Nets rookie wing Kessler Edwards.”

Steve Lichtenstein wrote of his Edwards in his substack, “Steve’s Newsletter,” that the numbers bear out Schmitz’s point.

Per NBA.com’s tracking, he held Cleveland’s highly-regarded rookie Evan Mobley, who was drafted third overall, to three-for-seven shooting without fouling him once despite the four-inch and 12-pound disparities.

Lichtenstein added that Edwards’ D affected Darius Garland, writing,

Edwards pretty much contained Cleveland’s rising star Darius Garland as well as anyone in his limited opportunities on Monday—Garland may or may not have dragged his back pivot foot on the one time he was able to step through to the basket on Edwards.

As another Steve, Nash, has said, Edwards has some “natural defensive instincts.” He has also done well on offense, particularly as a starter. In those five games, Edwards is averaging 10.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 33 minutes with shooting splits of 45/41/100. In fact, Schmitz ranks Edwards, taken at No. 44 in the second round, higher than four of the 2021 Draft’s lottery picks by Schmitz.

With injuries and illnesses ravaging the Nets, the three rookies have all had big games in recent weeks. Thomas has had three 20+ point games in the last 10 days while Sharpe had a 20-point game and a double-double in that same time period.