DeMarre Carroll Looking to Take Advantage of His Opportunity In Atlanta

Monday, November 4, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Atlanta Hawks v Los Angeles Lakers

DeMarre Carroll comes to Atlanta searching for stability after playing for four teams in as many years to start his NBA career.

Drafted 27th out of Missouri by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2009, Carroll played in 71 games for the Grizzlies (one start) and averaged 2.9 points (39.6 eFG%), 2.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists, and 0.4 steals in 11.2 minutes. Carroll played in just seven games the next season for the Grizzlies before being traded to the Rockets, where he appeared in just five games. Carroll signed with the Nuggets the next offseason (2011-12) and appeared just four games in Denver before being dealt to the Jazz, where he stayed until this past offseason. Carroll played 66 games for the Jazz in the 2012-13 season, posting career highs in field goal percentage (46%), points per game (6.0), rebounds per game (2.8), assists per game (0.9) steals per game (0.9) and minutes per game (16.8).

Carroll, who has started a total of 22 career games, will be thrust into the starting lineup for the Hawks this season. With such a short wing rotation, the Hawks will rely on Carroll to play a lot more minutes than he ever has on a consistent basis (he’s played an average of 29 minutes in the Hawks’ first three games). As a player known for bringing energy off the bench and being a spark plug, moving into the starting role will be quite a change for DeMarre, but as he noted, that change will not effect his playing style.

“Not really. You know me, what I do is be an energy guy, Junkyard Dog, do all the little things,” he said. “Now I just have to bring that to the starting role rather than off the bench. Mentally, I think it stays the same, I just have to take in that I’ll be playing more minutes.”

This preseason, Carroll showed a big improvement to his biggest weakness to this point in his career, perimeter shooting. Carroll has never been a proficient shooter and has shot 28.4 percent (27-95) for his career from beyond the arc. Last season he shot 28.6 percent from three (20-70) and 36.4 percent (70-192) on shots outside eight feet from the rim. This preseason, Carroll went 7-14 from three-point range, and while that is an admittedly small sample size, he had never done that before over a stretch of 14 three-point attempts. His prior best stretch was going 6-14 from three from Nov. 18 – Dec. 15 (10 games) last season.

Watching film on Carroll and watching him up close in pre-game shoot-arounds, it is clear that he has spent much of this offseason working on his jump shot. Prior to this season, Carroll’s jump shot had a hitch at the top and there was more of a cocking motion prior to his release. This year, his stroke seems smoother and he gets the ball to a more consistent release point. When I asked about that change in form Carroll lit up, happy to see that his hard work in the offseason had been noticed, and discussed what he wanted to do with his jump shot this season.

“I’m glad you noticed that. [My shooting form] is what we really worked on this summer. It feels more easier. I can shoot deeper now and I feel more easy [from three]. I really worked on that, getting my release all the way to the top and not having that cock. So, you know, I can only get better and continue to keep improving that.”

DeMarre’s first three games as a Hawk have been a struggle from the field (as it has been for a lot of the Hawks’ players), going 4-14 and 3-12 from three (including one half-court heave). Watching how he responds to this rough shooting stretch and looking to see whether the preseason was more of an anomaly rather than a sign of good things to come for Carroll will be a big thing to keep an eye on this season.

Despite these struggles, Carroll’s ability to positively impact the offense has shown in his excellent off-ball cuts, good transition play, and ability to get to the free-throw line (via cuts) and convert those opportunities, going 12-15 from the stripe in the first three games.

In Bud’s offense, three-point opportunities will make up a large portion of Carroll’s offensive chances, and being able to knock down those looks at a decent rate will be important to the Hawks’ success. However, his knack for making timely off-ball cuts, particularly on the baseline, and filling lanes in transition will still allow him to have a positive impact offensively even when his jump shot is not falling.

Spending the last season-and-a-half in Utah, Carroll played in a much slower-paced system, which went against his strengths of cutting and moving in transition. Carroll expects the transition into Coach Bud’s offense, predicated on ball movement and motion, to help him be a more productive offensive player.

“Oh yeah, this style suits me real good. I think I can excel in this offense because I can slash and then knock down the corner three, you know that’s all I’ve been working on this summer is corner threes. I think it’s really going to help me offensively.”

Here is an example of how DeMarre is so effective cutting off the ball:

On defense, Carroll will often find himself matched up on the opponent’s best wing or guard. In the first three games, Carroll has spent time defending the one through four spots on the court, depending on the opposition. He’s been asked to match up with Steve Nash at the point at times just one game after defending Rudy Gay at the three or the four if the Raptors went small. Carroll’s defensive versatility on the wing gives Coach Bud lineup flexibility, as Carroll can defend smaller guards as well as bigger wing players, which allows Bud to go with different guard combinations.

I asked Carroll what his mentality is going up against the opposition’s best player, knowing that those players are going to score even against great defense.

“You know, Tony Allen, he really mentored me when I was in Memphis. He told me, ‘These guys they’re great. They get paid a check because they’re great.’ So, you know, you’re not going to stop somebody from scoring, but you make shots harder for them in the beginning so at the end of the game they’re not hitting those same shots they were hitting in the beginning of the game. So, it’s kind of a wear and tear thing. You just want to wear and tear them so at the end of the game, when they want to hit that shot to put them up two, they miss it.”

He also discussed how his approach changes when he defends bigger wing players compared to smaller guards.

“Yeah, three guard is more physical so I have to be more physical, but when I’m playing with shooting guards, I want to be more long cause they’re shooters so I want to get out there and contest and be more long. With threes, I’m mostly focusing on being physical with them and make it hard and make it uncomfortable for them.”

Carroll feels like the Hawks’ defensive scheme and the players he will be surrounded by will also be a better fit for him defensively, especially against pick-and-rolls. In Utah, Carroll often had Al Jefferson at the center spot, who is not nearly as quick as Al Horford, behind him, which forced him less aggressive against pick-and-rolls.

“I think the biggest thing for me is it’ll help me out more, I can sustain more, I can be more aggressive. In Utah, you had Al, who, you had to pick and choose when to be aggressive to make sure they don’t get beat. You know, we got a lot of guys who can play the four or the five, and I think that’s the beauty of our team.”

Carroll’s strength against the pick-and-roll is evidenced here, as he puts his length, body strength, and lateral quickness on display:

He is able to absorb the screen and get around it, all while staying focused on his opponent, denying the driving lane, and moving quickly to contest the step-back jumper.

Carroll fits the type of player and person the Hawks want in the organization. He’s a hard worker that is committed to the defensive end of the floor and does the little things. His defensive presence and ability to guard multiple positions on the wing and in the backcourt will be important to the Hawks, who will need a versatile wing defender with so few options on their roster at the three. Carroll needs to continue growing and developing as a shooter to allow the Hawks’ offense to run the way Bud wants it to, but he has shown a focus and commitment to becoming a better, more consistent threat from the outside.

After four years roaming the NBA as a journeyman, the Junkyard Dog appears to have found a home in Atlanta, where his tenacity on defense and activity on offense are desired and his skill set can be maximized.

[All stats provided by Synergy Sports, Basketball-Reference, and NBA Stats]

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