The Celtics bench has the biggest question mark all year long about this team, particularly among the youngest members of the roster. While Grant Williams established a role for himself right out of the gate, his fellow rookies from the 2020 draft class have taken a back seat for the most part during the C’s 43-21 start to the year.
Some of that was expected. Multiple injuries and a revamped shooting form for 20-year-old Romeo Langford left him at the bottom of the wing depth chart after sitting out Summer League in 2019. The lottery pick was always a pick primarily for the future, rather than the present given the talent ahead of him on the roster. In turn, Tremont Waters was a long-term project as well, with the C’s having agreed to terms on a two-way contract with him shortly after taking him at No. 51 overall.
One guy who was expected to help a bit more in the present, however, was Carsen Edwards, particularly after a superb summer league and a standout preseason that featured 26 points against the Cavs in one memorable third quarter.
Those showings combined with his seasoning at Purdue (three full seasons) had the Celtics brass believing early on that he could be an energy scorer off the bench in the NBA, despite his size limitations. It’s easy to forget now but Edwards was a mainstay in the rotation during the first two months of the regular season, playing in 21 of the team’s first 23 games.
Despite a couple of strong efforts against lightweight defensive squads like the Wizards and Cavs, Edwards’ preseason success did not translate to the regular season. His high-volume shooting wasn’t efficient, he struggled from beyond the arc and his defensive limitations due to his size were glaring as well. Boston’s offense fell off a cliff (93 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor) largely thanks to Edwards’ 32 percent shooting from the field. Ultimately, Edwards’ struggles left him spending more time in Maine than Boston for the final two months of the season once he fell out of the rotation. Langford managed to break into the rotation when healthy in January as injuries piled up but his offensive game (21.9 percent from 3) has been just as much of a liability.
Offensive struggles are no surprise for rookie guards in the NBA, though. Look no further than Terry Rozier (27 percent shooting in his rookie year) as an example of a guy who managed to turn the corner after an extremely slow start out of the gate. By the end of year two, Rozier was receiving key playoff minutes after earning the trust of Stevens as a steady hand off the bench.
Edwards and Langford have a long way to go to earn that kind of a role in the postseason but both will have a unique opportunity this summer. It’s still their rookie year but they have had the benefit of a clean slate to the degree with a