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2019 NBA draft profile: Carsen Edwards' elite scoring ability a perfect fit for Sixers

2019 NBA draft profile: Carsen Edwards' elite scoring ability a perfect fit for Sixers

Position: Guard

Height: 6-0

Weight: 199

School: Purdue

Carsen Edwards was on the short list of the best players in all of college basketball the last two years. A two-time First Team All-Big Ten selection, he was the face of the Purdue program during his sophomore and junior seasons. 

Edwards averaged 24.3 points this past season as a junior and cemented his status as a legit NBA prospect during Purdue’s run to the Elite Eight in March. He averaged just under 35 points in the Boilermakers’ four NCAA Tournament games - including 42-point performances against Villanova and Virginia, two programs that have combined to win three of the last four national championships. 

Edwards turned 21 in March and enters the NBA with three years of experience at the highest level of college basketball. He projects as a late first-round to early second-round selection. His elite scoring ability combined with his impressive work ethic should enable him to carve out a successful 10-12 year NBA career.

Strengths 

Jay Wright came up with a fitting description of Edwards before Villanova’s NCAA Tournament game against Purdue - a thick Allen Iverson. 

At just under 200 pounds, Edwards is sturdier than the former Sixers superstar. That’s not to say Edwards will follow the same career path in the NBA as Iverson, but the skill sets are similar. 

Edwards can score the ball. That’s his biggest asset as he makes the transition to the professional level. He can score with the ball in his hands and he can score playing off the ball. Like Iverson throughout his career, Edwards has been relied upon heavily to carry his team on the offensive end of the floor. 

Edwards attempted nearly 20 shots per game as a junior at Purdue. He connected on 39.4 percent of his field goal attempts, including 35.5 percent from three-point range. His efficiency numbers were down from his sophomore season, when he was a 40.6 percent three-point shooter.

In addition to being an extremely talented offensive player, Edwards is a fierce competitor who puts forth maximum effort on the defensive end. His foot speed, lateral quickness and 6-6 wingspan should enable him to become a more than adequate perimeter defender.

Weaknesses

Decision making stands out here. Edwards had more turnovers than assists last season at Purdue. He has the tendency to try to do too much offensively, something he will have to reign in at the NBA level. 

He measured at just over 6-feet in shoes at the NBA Combine, so he’ll be undersized for a guard. It also remains to be seen how he transitions from being “the man” in college to playing a complementary role in the pros. Can he be effective with a significantly lower usage rate? 

Fit

Edwards would be a tremendous fit with the Sixers. He’s a dynamic scoring guard capable of creating his own opportunities. He shoots effectively off the dribble. These are traits that the Sixers’ offense lacked last season. 

He would be a terrific spark off the bench and could also blend in nicely with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and the rest of the first unit. He has a winning mentality, the type of guy you want in your locker room.

Edwards should be available when the Sixers make the 24th pick in the first round. There’s a slim chance he could still be on the board early in the second round. He impressed the Sixers at his pre-draft workout last week, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if they target him on draft night.

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Alec Burks stands out to Brett Brown in Sixers' bench competition with performance vs. Nets

Alec Burks stands out to Brett Brown in Sixers' bench competition with performance vs. Nets

The 12-44 Golden State Warriors have not been the most compelling viewing this season for an East Coast audience. 

Alec Burks, after scoring 19 points Thursday night in the Sixers’ 112-104 overtime win over the Nets, seemed to acknowledge that reality. 

“Just playing my game, man,” he said. “I know I played on the West Coast. I don’t know if y’all watch the West Coast, but that’s how I play. It’s just playing my game, just trying to feel it out, because it’s only my second game — I’ve only been here a couple days. Hopefully it will get better and better as the season goes on.”

Before the Sixers acquired him and Glenn Robinson III from Golden State, Burks had been averaging a career-best 15.8 points per game. His offensive contributions were timely against Brooklyn as he scored every one of his points after the Nets took a 50-30 lead. 

Brett Brown had said pregame that he wants to have a nine-man playoff rotation but that he doesn’t yet know every one of its members. 

“I think there’s a period of time, especially when you’re talking about the last two, say, spots, where it has to be competitive, and it will be,” he said.

After a bizarre game in which the Nets had a 46-10 run and the Sixers made a season-low 4 three-pointers on 22 attempts while shooting 32 of 35 at the foul line, it would have been fair for Brown to say he couldn’t pass much judgement on that competition. Instead, he identified Burks as a standout, especially in the context of the Sixers’ playing without Ben Simmons (lower back tightness) and searching for solutions at backup point guard.

We’d all have to walk out of here being pretty impressed with Alec Burks,” he said. “He provided a scoring punch. He really was a dynamic scorer. And I think the more I’m seeing him, his ability to pass out of a pick-and-roll is elite. … We’re always wondering what’s going to go on with the backup point guard when [Simmons] is healthy, and I tried [Furkan Korkmaz] a little bit there, I tried [Josh Richardson] a little bit there, Shake [Milton] came out of left field in the second half because I wasn’t entirely thrilled with how I was rotating the group and what I was seeing. 

“And so you’re wondering, might Alec have something to do with being a primary ball carrier, because he’s a really good pick-and-roll player and passer? He stood out tonight. The other guys I thought were solid, but as far as standing out, he did to me.

With the Warriors, Burks was above league average efficiency on pick-and-rolls, isolations and dribble handoffs this season, per NBA.com/Stats. He was well suited for ball handling responsibilities with the Sixers on paper, and Thursday was the first extended look at those skills on the court. Burks had sat out the Sixers’ Feb. 9 game vs. the Bulls as he adjusted to a new time zone, city and team, and he’d only played 14 minutes against the Clippers in the Sixers’ final pre-All-Star break game, scoring two points.

Brown tossed out a bunch of lineup combinations, looking for a group that could bring order to a chaotic game. Though Burks air balled an open three with 1:07 left that would have given the Sixers the lead, he was a clear inclusion for Brown in overtime. He scored five of the Sixers’ nine points in the extra session. 

“He was big for us,” Tobias Harris said. “He gives us another guy that can handle the ball and create his own shot. He has a really good mid-range jumper, he’s got great speed going downhill. He was able to make some huge plays for us, especially in the fourth quarter. We just fed off his energy tonight, and it was good to see him get going. … I think he’s going to be great for us.”

Outside of Burks, it likely wouldn’t make sense to take much away from the play of the Sixers’ bench players. Simmons was out, Raul Neto started and Brown was constantly grasping for someone or something that could have a positive impact.

Burks emerged. 

“Since we got him, I felt like that was another guy that could create his own shot — just come off the screen and pull up behind the three-point line,” Joel Embiid said after his 39-point, 16-rebound night. “And he’s not afraid to take that shot. We need that. We haven’t really had that the last couple years, so it’s a good sight to see. A great job by [general manager Elton Brand] for making it happen.”

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A year after post-All-Star injury problem, Joel Embiid is (mostly) healthy, focused on big goals

A year after post-All-Star injury problem, Joel Embiid is (mostly) healthy, focused on big goals

Last season, Joel Embiid returned from the All-Star Game unhealthy, bothered by a left knee injury that would sideline him for eight straight games and jeopardize his status throughout the playoffs.

Thursday night, he saved the Sixers from what would have been a bad defeat to the Brooklyn Nets, scoring a season-high 39 points and snatching 16 rebounds in a 112-104 overtime win at Wells Fargo Center (see observations). 

He did, however, have a cold. (His postgame coughing had given a reporter a clue.)

Embiid didn’t have a splint on his left hand, though, which he thought “helped a lot” in converting 18 of 19 free throws, including four in the final 35.9 seconds of regulation. In the previous eight games, he’d shot 69.9 percent at the foul line. He dove on the floor, sprinted down it and looked like a player invigorated by the prospect of the home stretch. 

“Like I’ve been saying, I’m getting back to myself,” he said. “I’m telling my teammates, ‘Just get me the ball.’ … But that’s the mindset I’ve got to have. I want my teammates to know that I’m going to be there, especially in those type of situations.”

To call Thursday’s contest the ultimate game of runs would not be hyperbole. The Sixers claimed an early 20-4 lead, followed by a 46-10 stretch by Brooklyn. Because of a 12-2 spurt to finish the first half, the Sixers stayed in the game. It was a weird, unpredictable game ultimately decided by one dominant player.

“The All-Star Game is just proving that I’m here, I belong, and being the best player in the world,” Embiid said. "I just intend to keep coming out every single night, just play hard and try to get wins. Go hard and try to win a championship.”

Though there were areas to nitpick — five turnovers, for instance — Embiid generally did and said all the right things.

He even spun a question about the team’s free throw shooting into an opportunity to praise fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, who missed the game with lower back soreness. Simmons had made 69.6 percent of his free throws on seven attempts per game in the 16 games before the All-Star break, and Embiid saw an opening to recognize that recent improvement. 

“The thing I’m so happy about is Ben,” he said. “He’s been shooting the lights out at the free throw line. It shows his work ethic. He’s been working really hard, and it’s showing. He’s gotta keep doing that — keep working and keep improving — and I think that’s a big part of it.”

Embiid has often raised the issue of his personal disposition this year, commenting at length on topics like maturity, authenticity and his desire to have fun.

He was certainly not in a brooding mood late Thursday night. 

Having fun means a lot of things,” he said. “This year I have not been smiling as much as previous years. That doesn’t mean that I’m not having fun or anything is not going well. It’s just about just playing basketball the right way. First part of the season I was trying to make sure I was comfortable, kind of took a step back. But if we’re going to go somewhere, I’ve gotta be one of the guys. And it starts on defense — just playing hard, running the floor, doing the little things.

That apparent level of clarity and, more importantly, the level of Embiid’s play vs. Brooklyn, are obvious positives. 

Still, he’s started three straight All-Star Games. It’s been clear for a while that he’s one of the top players in the sport. One excellent, healthy game is worth acknowledging, without a doubt. But, if things go according to Embiid and the Sixers’ plan, it shouldn’t be the sort of thing that merits much consideration when one looks back at the season. 

“I expect greatness from him,” Tobias Harris said. “I think we all do as a team.”

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