Hoop Dreams: Hawks’ Carroll would be a perfect fit in Detroit

Detroit Pistons head coach and general manager Stan Van Gundy wasn’t shy when discussing his team’s needs last week with WJR’s Frank Beckmann, stating he was on the lookout for a lanky wing with a defensive mentality and the ability to serve as a legitimate long-range threat. 

Enter DeMarre Carroll. 

The six-foot-eight wing out of Missouri recently wrapped up the best season of his career, heading into unrestricted free agency after playing a key role on a 60-22 Atlanta Hawks team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals, providing the length, defensive intensity, and 3-point proficiency Van Gundy so desires.

Carroll has slowly climbed his way up the totem pole since being drafted 27th overall by the Grizzlies in 2009. Struggling to find his place as he jumped from team to team in the West (he played a combined 36 games from 2010-2012), he finally received an opportunity in Atlanta after signing a 2-year, $5 million deal in 2013.

While standing as the lone Hawks starter not to make the all-star team this year, Carroll was the glue that held his team together, averaging a career-high 12.6 points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals, all while shooting a more-than-legit .395 percent from the arc. 

In Detroit, Carroll’s acquisition would immediately shore up the team’s shortcomings at the small forward spot (a position currently housed by the ever-aging Caron Butler and Cartier Martin). Moreover, with power forward Greg Monroe’s exit appearing imminent (or very likely, if nothing else), a gameplan of pursuing a player like Carroll in free agency may allow Detroit to skew toward selecting a big in the draft, someone who may help fill the Monroe-sized void left beside Andre Drummond. 

If only it were that simple. 

As it stands, a franchise that considers a 32-50 season “progress” is apparently not a hot spot for free agents. While the Pistons have reportedly expressed interest in pursuing Carroll, they’ll likely be vying for position among the likes of the Celtics, Lakers and the Hawks. 

Speaking of the Hawks, what leads one to believe Carroll would ever want to desert a 60-win team that landed one step away from the NBA Finals? In short: money. Rumors regarding what Carroll’s worth may be on the open market have ranged from the understandable ($7 million per year) to the unfathomable (one league exec. estimated his next deal could draw $15 million per, in which case Detroit would say thanks but no thanks). With Hawks all-star Paul Millsap also due for a new deal, there remains a chance that Atlanta may not be willing to dish (or afford) what the market commands to retain Carroll’s services. 

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Even then, there remains complications. With free agent negotiations not opening until July 1, the Pistons will be forced to make a draft decision prior to hitting the market. Though, even in the event Detroit opts to select a small forward (think Stanley Johnson or Mario Hezonja), Carroll’s star level would likely be muted enough to allow for a healthy co-existence between himself and a young rook. 

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Draymond Green, the 24-year-old Saginaw product that’s topped most Pistons fans’ wishlists since he vaguely alluded to returning to Detroit back in January. Carroll and Green share a number of similarities, including (but not limited to) their defensive versatility and ability to play multiple positions. However, while Green has a penchant for filling the entire statsheet (he’s frequently regarded the Warriors’ Swiss Army Knife), Carroll’s superior deep-range ability helps neutralize the trade-off.

Perhaps most importantly, Green is a restricted free agent this summer, meaning even if he wants to come home and Detroit offers an agreeable deal, if the Warriors opt to match said deal, they’ll retain his services one way or another (Golden State has reportedly vowed to match any deal for Green this offseason, though it could take some financial maneuvering to do so). 

Ultimately, with upwards of $28 million in cap space to play with come July, and one season prior to a monstrous leap in the salary cap, dipping above market value in order to reel in a player like Carroll could end up as a bargain in the long run. 

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