One of the many questions surrounding the Hawks this upcoming offseason is whether or not they should re-sign starting Small Forward Demarre Carroll. Carroll, for most of the season, has been the forgotten man in the starting five. He was the only Hawks starter not to make this year’s All-Star team. Carroll was drafted 27th overall out of Missouri by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2009 NBA Draft. Carroll bounced around the NBA, spending time with Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz. But Carroll never really got much of a shot to play. Prior to the 2013-2014 season, Carroll was signed by the Atlanta Hawks to a 2 year/$5 million dollar deal. The signing was mostly an afterthought: many had not heard of Carroll and his signing was announced just minutes after the Paul Millsap signing. While many praise Ferry for finding a bargain in Millsap’s 2 year/ $19 million deal, it’s Demarre Carroll who has arguably turned into the NBA’s best bargain.
In two seasons as the starting Small Forward for the Hawks, Carroll has averaged close to 12 points per game and around 5 rebounds per game. He also has become one of the league’s most tenacious defenders and leads the Hawks in hustle plays. The 3 and D player has become a staple for every team in the NBA. Every team either has one or is looking for one. Carroll is the Hawks’ 3 and D specialist. Along with his tenacious defense, the “Junkyard Dog” has become a tremendously consistent three-point shooter. In the 2013-2014 season, Carroll shot 36% from behind the arc. That percentage was upped to 40% this season and he has become a much more reliable option on offense. Not too shabby for a guy who did not register a single 3-point field goal in his first three seasons in the NBA.
A few months ago it was believed that Carroll’s market value would be around $6-$7 million dollars annually. However, teams have started to take notice of Carroll’s improvements as a shooter and how pesky he can be on defense. Since then, that number has just gone up and up in reports, and now it is believed that Carroll could get $10-$12 million dollars annually on the open market. Not too long ago, I would have said that even 7 million dollars was too much to keep Carroll. I believed Carroll was not only replaceable, but simply just a product of Coach Bud’s system. However, in recent weeks, my opinion has totally flipped.
The Hawks, without a doubt, should resign Demarre Carroll. After watching the end of this year’s regular season and the beginning of the playoffs, it is clear Carroll is more than just a 3 and D player. He has become a deadeye shooter and is the perfect counterpart to Kyle Korver. He leads the defense and can guard anyone on the floor in big moments. So far in this year’s playoffs, Carroll is averaging over 18 points a game to go along with over 6 rebounds a game. He has not shrunk in the spotlight, but become a star. Whenever the Hawks have needed a play on offense or defense, Carroll has been the guy in the playoffs. Do I think Carroll will average 18 points a game over the coming seasons? No, but I have seen a guy who has played sparingly over his career blossom into a very good player in a short amount of time. Carroll will continue to progress and his numbers will only get better.
With the salary cap expecting to be raised significantly, believe it or not, $10-$12 million dollars a year for the caliber of player that Carroll is will seem like a bargain in the near future. Carroll is an integral part of the Hawks and should be resigned in the offseason. Despite rumors that he and the Knicks may have mutual interest, if the Hawks open up their wallets, Carroll will likely return to the team that gave him a chance and uses a system he flourishes in. Atlanta is close to his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, and Carroll recently praised the Hawks’ for their emphasis on player development. While resigning Paul Millsap may be priority #1 for the Hawks, Demarre should be a close second. Keeping the core the Hawks have built around is essential to future success.