The Detroit Pistons have prioritized signing a starting small forward in free agency. With that in mind, Detroit Bad Boys will preview a number of possible candidates the Pistons could target with free agency set to begin at midnight Wednesday. First up -- DeMarre Carroll.
DeMarre Carroll might have blossomed later than most, but he's no flash in the pan. He's coming off his third consecutive good-to-great season and brings with him a skill set that could perfectly match what the Detroit Pistons are looking for in a new starting small forward. Incidentally, Carroll is rumored to be one of the Pistons' primary free agent targets.
Why he Fits
After bouncing around the league in his first four years, Carroll, 28, has flourished in the Atlanta Hawks' "Spursian" system. That system, implemented by Mike Budenholzer, prioritizes motion, skilled passing and perimeter shooting all over the floor.
After being not much of a perimeter threat early in his career, the Hawks unleashed his long-range potential. In his two years in Atlanta, 41 percent and 46 percent of his field goal attempts have been 3-pointers, hitting at rates of 36.2 percent and 39.5 percent, respectively.
But that does him a slight disservice, as he's truly become a shooting threat from all over the floor. He hit better than 65 percent of his shots at the rim, 46 percent from 3-10 feet, 46 percent from 16 feet out to the 3-point line and 39 percent from 3.
He's also not someone that can only hit when he's wide open, though he'd get plenty of those opportunities alongside the Andre Drummond-Reggie Jackson pick-and-roll. While he took the majority of his 3s while open, even when a defender was 4 feet or closer, Carroll hit at better than 38 percent from distance.
And then there's his defense.
Carroll has always been the kind of player you can put on just about any shooting guard or small forward and he's going to be able to severely limit their effectiveness. At 6-foot-8 and 212 pounds, he also has the size capable of defending power forwards on switches or in the pick-and-roll.
Head coach Budenholzer has been effusive in his praise for Carroll's team-best defense, saying he "sets the tone" for the squad that finished with the sixth-best defense in the NBA.
Why he Doesn't Fit
The Pistons are building for the future, and while the team has its sights set on improving and contending for a playoff spot, adding a 28-year-old player might not fit the profile of the player Stan Van Gundy wants to add -- at least not for the price it will cost.
Also, while not necessarily one-dimensional, Carroll does not have many offensive skills beyond being a catch-and-shoot player. He wouldn't be that secondary ball handler that Van Gundy has talked about wanting on the floor, and he's also not much of a gifted passer.
Similarly, he's not going to wow you with his rebounding and he's a limited free-throw shooter on a team that really needs to improve from the charity stripe. And while the Pistons could get some positional versatility out of Danny Green (sg/sf) or Tobias Harris (sf/pf), Carroll is what he is -- the prototypical NBA small forward. He's spent 97 percent of his time on the floor as a small forward in Atlanta and I'm not sure the Pistons could go the small ball route with him at the four.
One of the biggest advantages to signing Carroll is that he will be an unrestricted free agent, meaning you don't have to worry about his former team matching an offer. Also, because the Hawks have limited Bird rights on Carroll, they can only carve out enough to pay him roughly $10 million to $12 million per year. And that's without taking into consideration their needs at other positions.
This means that If the Pistons make a competitive offer, Carroll might be forced to seriously consider moving on from the Hawks. He's been a journeyman and this could be his one big shot to cash in. He's made around $8 million in his six-year NBA career. Now he's looking at a situation where he could make all that and then some in year one of a new deal. Could it eclipse $10 million? $12 million? Wouldn't surprise me considering where the salary cap is headed.
But the Pistons won't be Carroll's only suitors. He could top the list of a lot of small forward-needy teams.
But for two or three years he could be the kind of two-way veteran presence that the Pistons desperately need.