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How DeMarre Carroll Fell From ‘Top Defender’ To Almost Irrelevant

Basketball is beginning to turn into a very fun game of analytics, especially for overlooked players.

With a more in-depth system of numbers, the game now introduces more effective aspects. More importantly, the value of certain players begins to increase due to their on/off court impacts. Putting it lightly, it brings out the “true” underdogs of the NBA. And for recently signed Brooklyn Nets Forward DeMarre Carroll, it’s kept him attained to NBA rosters.

Carroll, who turned thirty-one at the end of July, will be appearing on his seventh NBA team in his soon-to-be nine-year career. He’s spent his last two with the Toronto Raptors, as he’s been a journeyman at the professional level. Albeit, he’ll likely be best known as the “junkyard dog” for his two-year stint with the Atlanta Hawks, during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

However, it’s for certain that recently Carroll’s career has taken an odd turn — and quite possibly at the worst time. Some have asked, “What the heck happened to this guy,” as I even asked it myself. The Hawks’ magical 60-22 season back in 2014-15 fell into dust, shortly after a four-game Eastern Conference Finals sweep by the Cleveland Cavaliers. One of the more disappointing players in the series happened to be Carroll, himself.

What DID happen?

In two postseason rounds against the Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards, Carroll’s offense was at an extraordinary height. In both rounds (12 games) he averaged 17.1 points and 6.8 rebounds on a scorching-hot 52% shooting from the field, and nearly 44% from long distance. But it all happened to disappear, as the Hawks were soon to eventually share the court with the Cavaliers in the following round.

Carroll suffered a knee sprain in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals and didn’t return afterward. That injury alone mounted as perhaps ‘the beginning of the end’ for the Hawks, and all odds swung in the Cavaliers’ favor. The Hawks were a team in hopes of adding icing to the cake, but the Cavaliers had an entirely different dessert in mind.

AP PHOTO/CARLOS OSORIO

As someone who was expected to become a “stopper” for superstar Lebron James, Carroll played miserably on both ends. While playing through the injury, he only managed 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds and shot an abysmal 32% from the floor, and 26% from three. James once again showed his postseason dominance, and the Cavaliers would advance to the NBA Finals, their first in franchise history.

After the Hawks were eliminated, there were many questions regarding their offseason. And for DeMarre — who was an unrestricted free agent — his decision to remain with the Hawks was one of their top priorities. Not only was the Hawks’ offense a great sight to tune in and watch, but they also had some outstanding defensive stretches as well. But knowing that the Hawks chances of defeating the emerging Cavaliers were all-but-diminished, Carroll’s time was up. A fresh new start with the Raptors was what he desired.

The 2015-16 season seemed like a big one for the Raptors, overall. The completely revamped logo, new uniforms, and the support of artist Drake influenced such a move up north. But most importantly, the team generated a new identity. Toronto let it be known that they had strong intentions of solidifying their place in the NBA. Their first step, however, was overtaking the highest steps of the Eastern Conference ladder.

Or most will say: Get past LeBron.

The addition of Carroll fortified that, after signing a four-year, $60 million deal to play across the U.S. border. However, his contributions weren’t much better than the stint he had with the Hawks. Carroll played in just 26 games for the Raptors after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Toronto still obtained a 56-26 record without their best overall defender, as he returned for the final four games of the regular season. He appeared in just two of them.

Toronto met up with Cleveland in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 postseasons. And to keep a repetitive story — you know — less repetitive, they just couldn’t fair with the eventual NBA champions. Carroll struggled yet again to compete with the best overall player in the league, as the Cavaliers made it back to the NBA Finals in both years.

DeMarre Carroll

Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

After the Raptors were eliminated from postseason contention once again, there were more concerns regarding their roster. But their intentions were eventually made clear that keeping DeMarre on their roster wasn’t ideal. On July 13th, the Raptors chose to trade Carroll, a 2018 1st-round pick, and a 2018 2nd-round pick to Brooklyn, for Justin Hamilton.

Now with the Nets, a team far too different from the Hawks or the Raptors, DeMarre has found himself in a new direction. A team pushing to elevate from a youthfully filled roster, Brooklyn has brought in a capable leader. With the experience of being part of winning organizations, Carroll has all of the components to become a mentor for young forwards such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert.

Here’s what Carroll said about his new situation in an interview at NBA Summer League via NBA.com:

“I’m happy.” A relieved Carroll sat down to talk with NBA TV during a Summer League playoff game. “I’m going back to where I call, ‘family.’ Kenny [Atkinson] who I’ve been knowing since Atlanta, he’s the one who helped me take my game to the next level. So I’m just happy to get back under his wing.”

“At the end of the day I’m just trying to bring leadership and help these guys grow. Because they’re the future. You’ve just got to teach them. Sometimes you have to go out there and lead by example, and be vocal. I’ve been through it, so I want to help them whenever I can.”

It’ll be a plus for both DeMarre and the Nets. A team looking to make its first playoff appearance since the 2014-15 season.

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