After getting waxed in the first round of the 2015 NBA playoffs by the Washington Wizards, the Toronto Raptors knew something had to change with their roster. On Wednesday, the team signed DeMarre Carroll—the lone non-all-star in the Atlanta Hawks’ starting lineup a season ago—to a four-year, $60 million deal. After raking in a combined $5 million over the last two seasons, the small forward’s annual pay rate spiked 500 percent.
Carroll will be infused into a back court that features all-stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The Junkyard Dog was pivotal in Atlanta’s playoff run last season; he led the Hawks in scoring in 35 percent of their playoff games, and upped his true shooting percentage to 59.7 percent, a team-high among players who logged at least 120 minutes. The 28-year-old is coming off of a career year in virtually every metric, but the Raptors have more work to do if they hope to make another postseason run, particularly if they hope to usurp a spot in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
Dwane Casey’s group handily won the Atlantic Division last season, but the Achilles’ heels of the roster corroded their chance at a championship. The team’s offense finished fourth in the NBA in offensive rating, scoring 111 points per 100 possessions. In the playoffs, however, they only eclipsed the 100-point threshold once.
Toronto was an above-average shooting team, but had difficulty from beyond the arc. Carroll shot 39.5 percent along the perimeter last season, a figure that would’ve been a team-high in Toronto. He can immediately be a potent third option on the offensive end, and was one of the five most efficient players at finishing inside the perimeter last season, netting 56.7 percent of his attempts.
There’s no doubt that Carroll brings more to the table than Terrence Ross, who he will be replacing in the starting lineup.
However, it wouldn’t be surprising if Carroll’s production drops. As Trey Kirby of The Starters noted, 82.7 percent of Carroll’s buckets last season were assisted. He had the luxury of playing for the best facilitating team in the league, and the second-best team in Vantage Sports’ assists per 100 chances metric. Toronto, on the other hand, finished No. 27 in assisted two-point field goals and No. 28 in assisted three-point field goals. The Milwaukee Bucks already signed Greivis Vasquez, who finished second on Toronto’s roster in assists per 36 minutes. How potent are Carroll’s figures if you remove the three players who averaged better than three assists per 36 minutes from the equation? Carroll won’t turn around their distribution numbers, either — his assist percentage was 8.3 percent in 2014-15, the lowest on the team among players who logged 1,100 minutes.
The Raptors had incessant issues crashing the glass, finishing with the fifth-fewest total rebounds per game during the regular season and missing countless openings for second-chance scoring opportunities. In the playoffs, it got worse: Toronto finished last among all playoff teams in rebounds corralled per chance. Like the loss of Vasquez, Amir Johnson’s departure only amplifies a glaring issue. Carroll is an above-average rebounder, and will certainly be an upgrade over Ross’ pterodactyl arms, but his contested rebounding average is lower than players he’ll match up against in conference play, like Luol Deng.
“We the North” became “We the Lethargic” on the defensive end at the tail-end of last season. Casey’s defense grew more volatile as the months drudged on, and Vantage Sports ranked the team No. 23 in the league in their Beat Back on D Rate metric. Carroll is a lockdown defender who will have an immediate impact on the wing, likely picking up the arduous defensive assignments each night. This is undoubtedly where he’ll make the most impact next season.
Carroll had a tremendous year in Atlanta, but his move to Toronto comes with multifarious emotions. There’s no doubt he’ll help the team on both sides of the ball, but to expect him to produce the way he did last season is to argue that his all-star-studded roster had nothing to do with the progressions.
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the Pacific Standard and VICE, among other publications. He has been heard on CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. Planos is currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer.