There was no way for Kessler Edwards to know what was coming. There was no way for any member of the Brooklyn Nets to know what was coming.
On Monday, Paul Millsap entered the health and safety protocols. One day later, six other players joined him. The NBA requires a minimum of eight active players suit up for every game, which meant that either Durant, who was listed as questionable with right ankle soreness, was going to play on Tuesday, or the game would have to be postponed.
Ultimately, KD played. With eight players available on the roster, and half of them being rookies, the Nets beat the Raptors in overtime. The significance of the game was given a whole new meaning as the rookies made the most of the opportunity.
In the second round of the 2021 draft, Brooklyn chose forward Kessler Edwards at No. 44. Ironically enough, against Toronto, he played in 44 minutes and led the rookies with 17 points (7-of-12 shooting) and 10 rebounds.
Brooklyn Nets rookie Kessler Edwards shines in OT win over Toronto.
The 21-year-old from Pepperdine University, who’s on a two-way contract, rose to the challenge. Before Tuesday, he had only played in a combined 12 minutes for the Nets. He scored eight points against Golden State in nine minutes on Nov. 16 and then didn’t score in three minutes of play against Boston on Nov. 24.
In the meantime, he’s been with the Long Island Nets, where he’s averaging 15.6 points and 8.3 rebounds in 7 games.
Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, and David Duke Jr. had all played more than Edwards leading up to Tuesday. This isn’t a knock against the other three rookies, because Sean Marks drafted an incredible class, but it was telling that Edwards took over against the Raptors.
Steve Nash said that Edwards’ performance was “outstanding.” Nash chose to close the game out with Edwards, Duke, Durant, Patty Mills, and Blake Griffin. That says a lot about both Edwards and Duke’s level of play, considering Edwards was a second-round pick and Duke went undrafted.
Nash also noted he told Edwards to be more aggressive, and that’s exactly what he did.
What’s most intriguing about the 6-foot-7 rookie is that he had 10 boards, but also shot 3-of-6 from the 3-point line. His versatility is what makes him so special, and is what will increase his playing time with Brooklyn.
Edwards is a player to watch in the future, even though his next couple of performances weren’t that impressive. Against the 76ers on Thursday, he scored nine points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field, and added seven boards and two assists in 33 minutes. The Nets won a nail-biter once again thanks to Durant. But then the MVP frontrunner entered the health and safety protocols on Saturday and the Nets were forced to play a skeleton crew against the Magic. Edwards played 40 minutes but shot just 4-of-13 from the field, totaling just nine points, five rebounds and two assists.
Nonetheless, it’s clear there’s potential here, and Edwards will no doubt be able to make the most of his minutes alongside the team’s other star players. Once everything returns to normalcy, expect to see more of the Pepperdine product.