When I look back at this season for DeMarre Carroll, two distinct thoughts come to mind -- that I'm happy to have a player of his skill-set on the Raptors, and that we haven't even brushed the surface of what he can bring.
Carroll was signed last off-season to a 4-year, $60 million deal to fill the Terrence Ross-sized hole in the roster – a capable wing defender with an outside threat, a guy who can bring some toughness to a position where the Raptors desperately needed it. With the East full of problematic offensive threats at the three spot – think LeBron, Jimmy, Paul, Carmelo, and Dwyane – Toronto needed an answer, and Carroll filled that role.
Unfortunately, expectations were grounded basically from the opening tap. Carroll spent most of 2015-16 fighting injuries, and with the entire season now in the rear view mirror, it’s quite astounding to look back and take in how much he went through.
After a brutal left knee injury with Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Finals, it was his feet and right knee that became problems early in his first campaign with the Raptors. He missed three games early on with plantar fasciitis, then nine games in December with a right knee contusion. In both instances, Carroll played through the pain and looked increasingly frustrated with his play. It culminated in a doctor’s visit in early January, when they investigated his knee and performed arthroscopic knee surgery. An initial timeframe of 6-8 weeks was placed on Carroll, but his return wouldn’t come until 13 weeks later, as he played three of the last five regular season games. He would later admit that he returned despite continued swelling, which may have contributed to what happened next.
Things failed to get better in the playoffs. At various points, he battled through a hyperextended elbow, sprained wrist, hip pointer, and a twisted ankle. Though he manufactured some timely shots (albeit missing many others), he was close to hopeless in defending Paul George and LeBron James, as the team had to rely more on Norman Powell and Patrick Patterson.
In the end, the Raptors had him dressed for what they signed him for – postseason basketball. They failed to get the expected production, though, as his numbers dropped off from the previous season in every meaningful category.
Playing in 46 games isn’t a lost season per se, but in this case, when you consider that a healthy Carroll could’ve been the difference between the Raptors finishing off the Pacers (or the Heat) earlier and getting the team some needed rest, you could chalk it up as such.
Basically, it was sad and we hope a summer of rest and health can give us the DeMarre Carroll we all signed up for next season. On to the numbers!
In the regular season, Carroll played in just 26 games, starting 22 of them. He averaged 11 points per outing, shooting 38.9% from the field and 39% from deep. That went alongside his 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game (only Kyle Lowry averaged more of the latter, at 2.1).
In his 20 playoff games, his scoring dropped to 8.9 points per game along with his 3-point shot, which dropped to 32.9%.
We undoubtedly got the best of Carroll during the months of October and November, before the plague of injuries set in. His best game, for my money, was the November 22 win over the Clippers, where he had the type of game we expect from him. 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting, five rebounds, and four steals in 39 minutes. Roll the tape.
When Carroll was signed, the first thought was that the Raptors finally had a legitimate player to guard LeBron James. Unfortunately, by the time that matchup came to fruition, Carroll was a shell of himself. His worst game was easily Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when LeBron frequently drove by him like he was a pylon, starting an avalanche that turned into a 31-point Cavaliers win.
Carroll was no better on the offensive end that night, with two points on 1-for-5 shooting, committing five fouls.
Strengths and Weaknesses
+ Tenacious, smart defender. You’d settle for guys being one or the other, Carroll is both. He gets in his opponent’s air space and makes them uncomfortable -- I pointed this out in a previous piece, but this recovery still floors me three weeks later.
+ Knock-down three-point shooter, which makes him the perfect running mate for DeRozan and Lowry’s driving style.
+ Fantastic character, great in the locker room and with media, always positive and grateful. This might seem cliché if it wasn’t 100% true.
- Lingering health questions. Can he play a long stretch without injury?
- Needs to develop a consistent in-between game for when teams crowd him. He was a brutal 29.3% from 5-9 feet and 20% from 10-14 feet, according to NBA.com.
Role Next Season
The Raptors obviously retain Carroll next year, as he’ll be on the second year of his guaranteed 4-year contract.
His role? That’s pretty simple: the Raptors will expect him to do what he did this year, only healthier. Any negatives you could apply to Carroll this season came as the result of injuries – his poor shooting in the playoffs, his disappointing defense, his missed games. The big question mark is whether he can play an entire season healthy. He’ll get the summer to recover, and we’ll have answers next fall. I’m hopeful for a more positive outcome.