It would be an understatement to say that DeMarre Carroll has been up-and-down over the past four seasons. He was a defensive presence for the Atlanta Hawks and a key piece of their 60-win team. Carroll then signed a four-year $60 million contract with the Toronto Raptors and missed most of his first year with injuries. He then struggled in a slightly healthier second season before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a salary dump in this past offseason. Carroll notably spoke out against the Raptors' offensive system on the way out the door, citing their lack of ball movement.
Now that he has been reunited with former coach Kenny Atkinson, Carroll looks far more like the old Hawks Carroll than he ever did in Toronto. While his improved health has certainly helped his development on that front, he has clearly benefitted from a fast-paced Nets system that looks more like the offense under which he had his greatest success as a pro.
Before: Toronto Troubles
DeMarre Carroll joined the Raptors with much fanfare after two stellar years in Atlanta. Unfortunately, his Raptors career was nowhere near as successful as his brief but brilliant stint with the Hawks. Carroll played just 26 games during the 2015-16 season due to various maladies. He did suit up far more often during the 2016-17 season, starting and playing in 72 games for Toronto.
While he did spend more time on the court in Year Two, Carroll still failed to live up to his $15 million contract. He struggled with his shot, converting on 40% of his field goal tries and 34.1% of his triples. Carroll also looked slow on the defensive end, as he struggled to keep up with quicker wings while also struggling to body up opposing power forwards. His advanced numbers were still solid. Carroll allowed 0.905 points per possession on defense, which ranked in the 54th percentile. His Defensive Real Plus-Minus was also above average at 0.83. However, those numbers were a far cry from his peak in Atlanta; Carroll was the fourth-best small forward in the league in Real Plus-Minus in 2013-14, behind LeBron, Andre Iguodala, and Kevin Durant — and just barely ahead of Kawhi Leonard. Carroll might not have been as bad by the advanced numbers as his sluggish play indicated during his last year in Toronto, but his play was a far cry from his peak in Atlanta no matter how you looked at his contributions.
After: Brooklyn Breakout
DeMarre Carroll was clearly considered dead money by the Raptors, as shown by their willingness to attach a first-round pick and a second-round pick to Carroll just to shed his contract. However, Carroll has been incredibly effective thus far during his brief time in Brooklyn. Through four games, he is averaging 14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 47.4% shooting from the floor and 44.4% shooting from deep. While it would be foolish to judge his season-long performance by his stats in the tiny sample size of the 2017-18 season as of right now, Carroll has also looked much faster on both ends of the floor. He is now catching up with plays in transition rather than being left behind the action:
It is still too early in the season to proclaim that DeMarre Carroll has fully returned. It seems unlikely that he will be able to return to the Junkyard Dog 2.0 levels of defensive aggression that he displayed in Atlanta--which is perfectly reasonable given that he was in the prime of his career then. However, Carroll has looked far more comfortable on both ends of the floor under former Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson in Brooklyn than at any point in his brief and ultimately disappointing Raptors career. The Nets got a solid haul in the Carroll trade just in terms of the draft picks they acquired. Carroll's solid play thus far is icing on the cake.