When the Hawks signed 27 year old DeMarre Carroll, it came with very little noise. Which is fair. His NBA career has certainly been far from a path of stardom. Playing for four different NBA teams in his first three seasons, with a stint in the D-League somewhere in the middle, Carroll was certainly far from a difference maker for a franchise. There was change this past season though, as Carroll finally stuck to one team for the first time since his rookie year. It paid off too. Carroll soon gained the moniker “The Junkyard Dog” and became a maximum effort player seeing time for the Utah Jazz. This led to Atlanta snagging him away at a cool price of $5 million over two years. The question for many Hawks fans is this: what can he deliver?
What will likely be the most important factor to Carroll’s success in Atlanta will be his fit with the other pieces, and on paper, it looks good. Carroll’s weakness on the offensive side of the floor comes in the form of being a weak jumpshooter. DeMarre needs to be surrounded with floor spacers to make up for that, which luckily, the Hawks have plenty. On the defensive end, Carroll was statistically lackluster last year, but was also surrounded in a system defensively in Utah that was void of talent on that end of the floor. (besides Derrick Favors)
As for what he can bring, Carroll will take the role of the Hawks garbage man. Garbage men take many shapes and sizes in the NBA, usually stemming from a player’s drive to continuously hustle. Carroll thrives in this role, and Atlanta’s roster does nothing but influence the Missouri product to play right in the parameters of said role. The Hawks were fifth in three pointers made last season, and should be an above average team this year as well.
DeMarre won’t have to be too concerned spacing the floor, and shouldn’t have to take too many jumpers with the Hawks. What he will be spending energy on are those hustling plays that get players like Corey Brewer huge payouts after receiving some much deserved attention in Denver. Carroll doesn’t necessarily have to be pretty on the box score, or in the advanced metric box at basketball-reference (though he fared much favorably to Brewer, who will be making twice as much this season). Carroll will just have to be the grit and grind of the team, who will be getting his hands dirty on the types of plays others don’t make.
One of the first ways Carroll does this is with off ball cuts. DeMarre has become such an intuitive player in this aspect. The timing of these cuts are of utmost importance in the “speed rules world” of the NBA, and he doesn’t miss a beat. Carroll ranks 23rd in the NBA in Synergy’s database with 1.36 PPP (points per possession) in cutting situations. He isn’t a player who is often utilized within an offense, but is right there ready whether his number is called or his teammate is trapped in need of a player moving to get the ball.
In DeMarre’s 16.8 minutes per game last season – a number that heavily fluctuated in Tyrone Corbin’s maddening rotations – he managed to grab 1.3 offensive rebounds. This number doesn’t pop out to the eye, but his 2.8 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes compares quite well to Josh Smith’s 1.8 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. Being able to nosedive right into the herd of players and find the basketball is a talent and Carroll possesses this talent. He’s also not too shabby when he decides to go back up with it; he only had 36 attempts, but was 10th on Synergy with 1.31 PPP when cleaning up off the offensive glass. He also grabs a lot of offensive rebounds in non-traditional methods, using a second or third effort to re-harness the ball from the opposition. This kind of play to gut out the two points is admirable, and beneficial to a team.
Lastly, Carroll’s most stellar play comes in transition. Sometimes, he is the instigator, wrecking havoc on opposing’s teams defense by flying all over the floor and creating the turnover. His 1.9 steals per 36 is a very strong number, and sometimes it comes in the form of him taking the ball from the ball handler and finishing the play at the other side of the court. (New Orleans clip) Other times, DeMarre’s leaking out from a teammate causing a turnover or recognizing a lazy defensive effort getting back and scores an easy basket at the other end. He is always in the flow of the game’s action, and pounces the moment he notices that other team’s guys aren’t. This could be quite deadly in combination with Korver’s killer transition threes, which is why we might see a faster pace out of Atlanta this season.
The Junkyard Dog isn’t a guy who will be constantly featured on the highlights, but he certainly seems okay with that fate with the demeanor he features on the court. What he could become is a fan favorite in Atlanta, as the fans who watch the team 82 games a year will certainly appreciate the small things Carroll does on a basketball court. Either way, it really feels Ferry grabbed a quality player at quite the bargain price.