Ahead of his eleventh NBA season, San Antonio Spurs forward DeMarre Carroll could use this summer to prepare himself for heated Western Conference competition.
A 6-foot-8 forward from Vanderbilt University, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, DeMarre Carroll is officially a member of the San Antonio Spurs! Carroll was a big offseason acquisition for the Spurs, and I believe his impact will be felt immediately as the season opens.
DeMarre came off of a year in Brooklyn where he saw his minutes and numbers go down, but still maintained effectiveness on the defensive end. His play style fits San Antonio better than the combo of rice and beans. In the words of The GOAT, coach Gregg Popovich: “I want some Nasty!”
Well, DeMarre most definitely brings that attitude and playstyle every night that he steps out on the floor. Nicknamed “The Junkyard Dog,” his ability to swarm defensively, make opponents uncomfortable, attack passing lanes and ultimately find his spot on the floor for an open three is something that Mr. Ritter would do in more wrestling terms back in the eighties & early nineties.
With that being said, DeMarre had some struggles in his previous season. While never being a perennial 20 point per game scorer, the output you’d like to see from him as a 3&D type of player was weakened. His skills ranges from catch and shoot three-point shots to driving layups and the occasional dunk.
His shots come from his high IQ on the offensive end where he is moving off the ball or in transition on catch-and-shoot threes where he doesn’t take a single dribble. Literally 57.6 percent of his shots came off of zero dribbles last season – he is a prototypical 3&D wing that is necessary in the modern NBA.
Carroll’s best season is a tossup between his 14-15 season in Atlanta where he was at 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game on 48.7/39.5 splits or his 17-18 season in Brooklyn where he was at 13.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, two assists and 0.8 steals on a 41.4/37.1 splits. He took the most field goal attempts of his career in that last season.
I mention all that, because I believe the previous season, he wasn’t the DeMarre that’ll be in San Antonio. I’m expecting a much better and more consistent next couple of years for the 33-year-old, as he still has a good amount of ball left in him. What’ll it take to make this happen though?
Next: Finding consistency as a three-point shooter
1. Become a more consistent three-point shooter
On face value, a 34 percent three-point shooter is solid for many players. A ton of teams and players will gladly shoot 34 percent from that range. With the number of triples being taken, players now-a-days are hitting at a much higher clip to where this is becoming league average.
Last season, DeMarre had 32 games in which he shot 28 percent or less from deep. 48 percent of his three-point shots came off of “Catch-and-Shoot” opportunities and he shot 34.8 percent off of those attempts – that number has to come up.
In an offense where you have guys like DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White and Dejounte Murray creating open looks, knocking down catch-and-shoot threes is crucial for the spacing and offense of this team. Last season, you had Bryn Forbes, Rudy Gay, Patty Mills and Davis Bertans who all shot between 40.2-45.5 percent on catch-and-shoot threes on two-to-five takes per contest. For guys like Davis, Bryn and Patty, that is 95 percent of their offensive game.
DeMarre isn’t as limited as they are in terms of getting to the cup, but as someone who takes a lot of threes, they’ve got to come at a higher clip. Furthermore, 46.2 percent of the time last season, his three-point shots had the nearest defender between four-to-six or more feet away. Nearly half his attempts come at what the league views as “Wide Open” – you must hit 40 percent of those.
It isn’t easy, obviously, because I’m just some guy who’s typing and enjoys two-piece Tuesdays, but with the ball movement and elite level transition offense that the Spurs run, the looks he’ll get will be much more of those uncontested shots. That’ll most likely be his main offensive role for the silver and black come 2019.
He’s very good at running the floor and finding open space to shoot open threes and his off-ball movement is A1 steak sauce too – we just need to make sure he’s actually making those shots. He’s going to continue to get looks like this, even from the corner he shoots a combined 36.5 percent, so at this point it’ll all come down to making the shots consistently because they’ll be there.
Next: Monitoring health
2. Staying Healthy
This is a goals series, correct? I hate the fact that I have to bring this up, but it is definitely something you have to monitor: a major goal for DeMarre Carroll must be to stay healthy this season.
While the Spurs’ medical staff may opt to give the vet “load management,” DeMarre’s previous nights where he’s in a suit rather than a jersey were due to some other issues. In totality, he’s missed 266 games out of 820 in his career. Over the last four seasons, he’s missed 90 games out of a possible 328. Health has been much better to him as he’s gone up in years and that generally isn’t always the case.
I’m definitely knocking on wood and praying for this man; you never know when accidents and injuries can happen. His availability will be important for this team, because as a potentially starting 3/4 or a bench player logging heavy minutes, he’s going to be needed night in and night out.
As we know, the Spurs will probably give this man 12 games off this season for a sore earlobe, or Dermatameculitis (Tweet me if you got that one.) As long as he isn’t missing time due to legit medical concerns, he should get a green light the whole way.
Next: Closing things out
I believe that DeMarre Carroll will be important to this team. His impact in the transition defense category will be very important and the defensive end is where I feel San Antonio will love him most.
Against Denver, you saw the inexperience and trouble guys like Bertans, and Gay had guarding guys bigger than them or ones who like to bang bodies down low. Players like Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee, who are totally different body types, both utilized and won their matchups most of the time. Carroll is a better post defender, rebounder (underrated quality of his) and moves better on the defensive end versus guys like Rudy and Davis.
DeMarre is better suited as a small ball four while Rudy, who is an inch taller, isn’t as good on defense with a play style better suited for the offensive end as a four rather than DeMarre, who suits a Three-and-D modern day power forward at 6-foot-8.
He moves well, has nice footwork and is an individual you want in your locker room. He’s a very humble man who benefits his teams both on and off the court. I think he’ll shoot much better this season, especially considering that the Spurs had two players shooting over 50 percent from three-point land (Davis-Rudy) and two others shooting 40% (Bryn and Patty).
Many NBA fans will think this is just another Spurs type of move (limited, system player) but this pickup is very much needed, especially when you’re playing more athletic and undersized power forwards or non-athletic bigs. DeMarre can handle a mismatch pretty well on both ends.
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While I can nitpick and say “Oh, he needs to take it off the dribble more” or “He needs to clean up his handle”, as a 33-year-old player, who quite frankly the Spurs don’t need that out of, there’s no point. DeMarre is best when playing solid perimeter and transition defense, following it up with a catch and shoot three.
Can he take you off the dribble? Yes, especially when he gets a point guard or a big guarding him. He has a quick enough first step to get to the rack and he uses his body well. Is that a consistent winning formula? I would assume, no. He isn’t someone that you expect or need a solid 20-4-3 from, but if and when he gives you 11-6-3 and good defense, you take that from your quality 3&D vets.
I believe he’s on a career and player path similar to Trevor Ariza, although I think Carroll is a little bit better. At this point, I’d really like to see DeMarre in a bench role with high minutes. If Derrick doesn’t start, I think you almost have to start DeMarre, but I’d rather not. I’d prefer to keep him on 22-26 minutes (essentially taking Davis’ minutes), playing with the younger guys like Derrick, Lonnie, Jakob and in a sense being the leader of that second unit.
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I’m not against him starting, but I think his best use would be in lower minutes. After the tough playoff series he had last year, Carroll is definitely going to try to come out with a DDP-level bang in his first season with the Spurs.