The San Antonio Spurs signed veteran forward DeMarre Carrol to a three-year deal over the summer. Here is what Spurs fans should look forward to seeing from the seasoned journeyman.
The Spurs organization had left its fingerprints on DeMarre Carrol’s career long before the veteran forward signed with the team. Carrol came onto the scene with the Atlanta Hawks under the tutelage of former Spurs and current Milwaukee Bucks coach, Mike Budenholzer.
Carrol made his name as a hard-nosed defender with a dependable three-point stroke. Along with Paul Milsap, Al Horford, and Jeff Teague, Carrol was an integral part of the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks squad that took the Eastern Conference by storm. He leveraged that success into a big payday, courtesy of the Toronto Raptors. Since then, it’s been a bit of a downhill run.
His time in Toronto was not the success that both parties had hoped it would be. Carrol’s diminished contributions, combined with his hefty salary, were deemed an unwise investment by the Raptors. Toronto would end up packaging Carrol and a first-round pick together and moving him to the Brooklyn Nets.
In Brooklyn, Carrol was able to find a more comfortable and began to get back to his Atlanta ways. Focusing on three-point shooting and defense allowed Carrol to squeeze the most out of his minutes and return to form. In his first season with the Nets, Carrol turned in a 14.3 player efficiency rating, his highest since his time with the Hawks.
Now Carrol will look to continue to build on his career resurgence as a member of the Spurs. In Carrol, the Spurs found a bargain deal on a position of need. Signed to a three-year deal, he will be with the team for a while and should be a dependable member of the bench mob. Here is exactly what Spurs fans can expect to see out of the 33-year-old veteran.
Next: Junkyard Dog Defense
Carrol’s calling card as an NBA player has been his junkyard dog, hard-nosed, defense-first mentality. He’s always been a willing and energetic defender capable of hanging with some of the best players in the league. In that regard, he was the perfect addition to the Spurs.
When the 2018-19 season was all said and done San Antonio had turned in a real defensive rating of .8. The league average is 0. This means that compared to the rest of the league, last season, the Spurs had a below-average defense. For perspective, the last time that had happened to the Spurs was in the 1996-97 season.
A lot of focus has gone to how the return of Dejounte Murray and the growth of Derrick White will help the Spurs defensively. That’s true, but the defensive shortcomings that San Antonio had at the wing and forward positions remain. That’s where Carrol’s impact will be felt most.
Rudy Gay isn’t a bad defender by any means, but he got exposed in the playoffs last year. Paul Millsap scored in double digits in five of the seven games while guarded heavily by Gay. One of the things that stood out most about the matchup was that Millsap was simply too strong for Gay, he powered right through him.
Carrol will step into the defensive rotation as San Antonio’s go-to defender for stretch four’s and powerful wings. There’s plenty of those kinds of players in the loaded Western Conference.
Both Los Angeles teams feature powerful forward tandems that will demand Carrol’s defensive attention. He will have to guard one of either Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. When facing the Lakers, Carrol will likely be tasked with trying to contain LeBron James.
Last season, San Antonio struggled to limit the impact of players who were too strong to be guarded by wings but too fast to be guarded by LaMarcus Aldridge or Jakob Poeltl. Carrol’s ability to fill that area of need will be one of his greatest contributions to the team over the course of the season.
Next: Three-Point Shooting
San Antonio was an interesting paradox in regard to their three-point shooting last year. They led the league in three-point percentage but were last in the league in three-point attempts. Admittedly, their two best scorers were mid-range focused players but still.
With the departure of Davis Bertans, San Antonio needs players to step in to fill the 4.4 three-point attempts per game that he contributed. Carrol is well suited to that role.
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A career 36% three-point shooter, Carrol is dependable with the long ball. He averaged 5 three-point attempts per game during his time in Brooklyn and should aim to be right around there while with the Spurs.
If San Antonio can build in a few plays a game to open Carrol up for looks from his preferred spots, they should be able to increase three-point volume without sacrificing their outstanding shooting percentage.
The corner three has long been a staple of the Spurs offense. Luckily for the coaching staff, that’s exactly where Carrol likes it. The left-side corner three to be precise. He shot an impressive 44% from that area the last season. Given that White and Murray are both right-hand dominant passers, I’m hoping to see them both whip quite a few one-handed passes to Carrol in the left corner for an open and easy three.
Carrol has never shot above 40% from behind the arc, but I believe he’s capable of it. He’s been close, shooting 39.5% from deep during that ’14-’15 run with Atlanta. Now in a system that emphasizes getting players to their preferred spots, with a preference for corner threes, I think that finishing the season shooting above 40% from three is well within Carrol’s reach.
Next: Depth and Positional Versatility
Depth and Positional Versatility
Right now it appears that Carrol will come off the bench for San Antonio. The Spurs bench is typically one of the strongest in the league. Last year’s group finished fourth in the league in overall plus/minus. If that is where Carrol spends the majority of his time he will be a great addition to the bench mob.
If either one of LaMarcus Aldridge or Rudy Gay went down with an injury I’d be more than comfortable with sliding Carrol up into the starting lineup. He’s more than up to the task.
Carrol brings depth to a position of need for San Antonio. The only other real stretch four on the team is Gay. Carrol’s ability to slide between small and power forward will allow San Antonio to play him in either position on a night to night basis, depending on what the matchup demands.
The great thing about Carrol is that there is hardly anything that this league can throw at him that he hasn’t seen before. Throughout his career, he has played in plenty of big games, guarded some of the toughest players in the league, and hasn’t backed down.
Likely coming off the bench, Carrol will join a group that likes to play a free-flowing, ball-movement focused style of play. That style, reminiscent of his time in Atlanta, should be right in Carrol’s wheelhouse and should benefit him immensely.
San Antonio may lack the starting star power of some of the other teams in the Western Conference but they are a very deep team. With the addition of Carrol, the Spurs have added on to what was already a position of strength. Should injuries come up, and injuries always do, Carrol will be ready to answer the call.
DeMarre Carrol was a perfect off-season signing for the Spurs. A tough as nails defender with a reliable three-point shot is exactly what San Antonio needed add and in Carrol, they have found their man. Spurs fans should look forward to having him on the team this season and for seasons to come.