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Something special this way comes: the rise of Kessler Edwards

Brooklyn Nets v Washington Wizards Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Can you ever get too much Kessler Edwards content? You cannot.

Matt Brooks, writing for Basketball News, takes a long look at the 21-year-old’s rise on both ends of the court and finds a player who is just starting to reveal his potential as a starting 3-and-D performer ... “Brooklyn’s rookie stopper”

Edwards has now started six straight games as a rookie — a mid-second rounder — giving analysts and fans a like a good look at what he can do. As Brooks notes, that the 6’8” Californian has been underestimated going back to his days at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, hard by I-15, (that previously produced Darren Collison and Jordan McLaughlin, an ex-Net.)

That’s been a trend for Edwards, who is no stranger to feeling like the odds against him are stacked like Jenga towers, with one false move causing a swift collapse. Ranked as just a 3-star prospect in high school by 24/7 Sports, he committed to Pepperdine University and spent three full seasons expanding his skill set. Still, Edwards didn’t hear his name called until the middle of the 2021 NBA Draft’s second round last June; he was taken at No. 44 due to concerns about his creation prospects. His role was anything but a given on a Nets team that’s never been more “title or bust.”

Even at No. 44, Edwards had doubters who despite his 40 percent shooting over three years at Pepperdine, was seen as having a bad form on his jumper and maybe some ball-handling deficiencies as well. But the Nets scouts, with a solid track record, liked the overall product, the motor and of course the D.

As Brooks notes, it’s not just the Nets scouts who respect that defense now, starting with the Bulls the night the Nets ran them off the court in Chicago.

Brooklyn’s rookie stopper held DeMar DeRozan to just 1-of-3 shooting that night. Three days later, he bothered Brandon Ingram into an uncharacteristic 2-of-8 showing. Then, it was Evan Mobley, who mustered a mere 3-of-7 outing while defended by the Glendale, California native.

That’s some serious defense for a kid who joined the starting lineup in mid-December as COVID ravaged the Nets roster. How unknown was he? Just before the Nets postponed their game vs. the Nuggets on December 20, Austin Rivers joked of the Nets gerry-built line-up that included Edwards, “They’re saying names that … I didn’t even know who I was guarding. I was guarding anonymous.”

Scouting reports, of course, have since been upgraded and not just about Edwards defense but his offense too. That 3-point form has been revised without any reduction in efficiency. As Brooks notes...

After some time with Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets, Kessler’s idiosyncratic landing mechanics appear to have been wiped clean. Now, his feet travel in unison throughout the entirety of his jump shot. His release point is high, and he shoots on the way up. The elevation on his jumper is majestic; he seemingly hovers for a second with hawk-like composure as the ball leaves his hands. There’s a sense of solidarity in Edwards’ energy transfer, a common goal of producing highly-efficient marks.

The numbers don’t lie...

Edwards has nailed 43.2% of his big-league threes, good for the 96th percentile at his position. Leaving him alone on the perimeter is basically a death wish — he’s 12 of 23 on uncontested long balls. Canning transition threes after a full sprint is certainly within Kess’ wheelhouse.

The combination of his defense and shooting have caused more than a couple of long-time Nets fans to compare Edwards to Kerry Kittles who was even skinnier but had that same motor.

What’s the bottom line for Brooks, where does he see Edwards fit long-term once he’s cleared up some worts in his game, which Brooks catalogs in detail? Mikal Bridges, he suggests.

Kessler Edwards offers something different than his contemporaries. On one end, he’ll fill the corners while Harden runs the pick-and-roll; on the other, he’ll screech around screens like Tokyo Drift to bother brash scorers that dare try him.

Of course, there is one issue the Nets will have to clear up if they want him to reach his full potential. As of now, he can’t start or play in the post-season. He’s still a two-way player and two-way players can’t suit up for the playoffs. The Nets have until 3 p.m. on April 11 to make the move. That’s the day playoff rosters get set. It would seem foolish as Brooks notes not to do that. After all, the hard part is already done.