The Celtics are in the midst of a six-day break after Thursday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, so the organization decided to send Carsen Edwards to G League Maine for game experience.
The Celtics have had mixed success with their G League team, in terms of development. The club has sent a number of prospects two hours north for seasoning. The issue has been that those prospects — such as James Young, Jordan Mickey, Guerschon Yabusele, R.J. Hunter, Demetrius Jackson, and Kadeem Allen — flourished with Maine, but that didn’t translate to the Celtics.
None of those former draft picks is with the organization. How much value does the G League have when the players who put up numbers there don’t show even close to that type of production at the NBA level?
This year the Celtics hired a new G League coach in Darren Erman, a veteran NBA assistant who has experience with the Celtics’ system, and replenished the roster with second-round pick Tremont Waters, who would be a reliable backup point guard right now for several NBA teams, and 7-foot-5-inch center Tacko Fall, who needs to play major minutes in an NBA-type system.
Edwards has struggled to score and defend in his short NBA stints, but he has excelled in his two games with the Red Claws. He scored 28 points with six steals in Sunday’s 108-103 win over Grand Rapids and scored 17 points in his debut.
The hope is for Edwards to return to the Celtics, perhaps as early as Wednesday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, more confident after game reps rather than practice.
“Everybody that’s played anything or done anything, you get better with confidence and reps,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “And I think that’s the No. 1 thing the G League provides for the guys that we send is there’s a sense of familiarity. There’s not as much really pressure on those games, obviously. But they’re still competing every night to be their very best. But you also get reps and condition.
“We sent [Vincent Poirier] up there with two clear goals: feel good about yourself when you come back and get good conditioning out of the deal. We could very likely need him if we get any thinner in the frontcourt, he could play here.”
The Red Claws are 9-4 and in second place in the Eastern Conference, a byproduct of a talent upgrade, highlighted by the addition of Waters. The Red Claws were 36-64 over the past two seasons, and the Celtics likely learned from the success of the Toronto Raptors and their G League affiliate Raptors 905 (champions in 2017, runners-up in 2018) about success in the G League and how that can translate to the big club.
As Stevens said, the Celtics are hoping G League stints for Edwards and Poirier can have positive psychological effects. Waters has played so well for Maine, he’s proved that he’s better than that level. But because of the Celtics having 15 guaranteed contracts and the sparkling season turned in so far by Brad Wanamaker, the Celtics don’t need point guard depth.
“We have a written-out plan for anybody that hasn’t played a lot of minutes,” Stevens said. “We’ll get a few guys up there over the next couple of months so they can continue to get reps, too. There’s so many factors with who’s available, injuries, all that stuff. So I think that’s hard to predict.
“We have a map of what would be ideal, and that then gets impacted by all that other stuff. We do have that written out.”