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DeMarre Carroll’s Free-Agent Outlook

DeMarre Carroll has made around $8 million in his six-year career, and will probably surpass that in the 2015-2016 season alone. The soon-to-be 29-year-old wing has transformed his reputation from just a lockdown defender to knocking down open shots to being able to create his own offense, and has now become a player that shows up prominently in opponents’ scouting reports.

Carroll has been known as a good defender for a few years, and was forced to exert most of his energy on that end of the court early in his career. Even as his offensive burden grew on the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Carroll maintained his stellar defense against opposing wings. On a team with no elite rim protectors, Carroll helped the Hawks to the sixth-best defense by allowing 103.1 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

Carroll’s rise to public recognition has been because of the steps he’s made on offense. Among players who averaged more than four two-point attempts and more than four three-point attempts per game, Carroll finished fifth in true shooting percentage at 60.3 percent. Most of this is due to his incredibly high two-point percentage (56.7 percent, the highest on the list), but Carroll has also become an elite three-point shooter, finishing just under 40 percent for the season.

Carroll has also become one of the elite rebounders on the wing, averaging a stellar 6 rebounds per 36 minutes each of the past two seasons. When considering Carroll had almost 20 more steals than turnovers on the season (94 and 75, respectively), there isn’t much that he can’t do on either end of the court.

The solution for the Hawks seems simple. Do whatever it takes to re-sign Carroll and worry about the rest later. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy.

Due to the incredible contract the Hawks signed Carroll to two years ago, the Hawks can go over the cap to re-sign Carroll if he agrees to a contract worth less than $6 million for the first season, a number he’s sure to surpass on the open market. (The belief is he’ll make eight figures annually.) If they want to pay him any more than that, they need to use their cap room. (As always, visit Larry Coon’s FAQ for any questions on the salary cap.)

With the money they have committed for next season, plus the cap holds for Carroll, Paul Millsap and Pero Antic‘s, the Hawks will have around $8 million in cap space, per Basketball Insiders. Antic will probably be gone, but Millsap will almost certainly make several million more than his cap hold of $12.35 million, so the finances will be tight.

While the Hawks could clear some extra room by trading a few players, there’s a strong possibility that Carroll could be in a uniform other than Atlanta’s next year. I’ll break down a few of the realistic (and some unrealistic) candidates.

Toronto Raptors
2015-2016 committed salary: $42 million
Projected cap space: up to $22 million

The Raptors would have to cut ties with most of their free agents in order to have the room to sign Carroll, but it can be done. Much was made of Toronto’s inability to create any offense outside of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, but the Raptors’ defense is what fell off after a surprising 2013-2014 playoff appearance. The Raptors finished 25th with a defensive rating of 107.7 last season, and Carroll could be the missing piece in Toronto.

The Raptors could also benefit from Carroll’s shooting as they finished only slightly above league average in three-point shooting at 35.2 percent (league average was 35 percent).

The Raptors are an exciting possibility for Carroll, although it seems a bit unlikely at this point. While they could have $22 million in cap space, that number will almost certainly be drastically reduced as they’re unlikely to renounce Amir Johnson, who has a $10.5 million cap hold. A decision must also be made on Lou Williams, who has a cap hold of over $8 million.

Indiana Pacers
2015-2016 committed salary: $52 million
Projected cap space: up to $12 million 

David West is opting out, but Roy Hibbert ($15.5 million) is opting in, although the Pacers are trying to deal Hibbert. If no deal can be found for Hibbert and other free agents’ rights are renounced, Indiana could make a nice run at Carroll with nearly $12 million in cap space. If a trade can be found for Hibbert and no (or little) salary is brought back, a strong pursuit can be made.

Carroll to the Pacers doesn’t seem all that likely either at the moment. However, thinking about Carroll and Paul George as wing defenders on the same team would be enough to please Pacers fans after the year they endured.

Los Angeles Lakers
2015-2016 committed salary: $35 million
Projected cap space: $15-$23 million

Including cap holds and the pending team options (Jordan Hill), the Lakers will have enough money to offer Carroll his desired amount of money, but I don’t see him making the move from the 60-win Hawks to the 21-win Lakers. Los Angeles will probably be looking at bigger fish like LaMarcus Aldridge anyway, although perhaps Carroll and another quality free agent turn into a consolation prize.

Milwaukee Bucks
2015-2015 committed salary: $43 million
Projected cap space: $9-$23 million

My personal favorite destination for Carroll is Milwaukee. There probably isn’t room for him on the wing with Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton (restricted free agent) and Jared Dudley (ETO), but some combination of those players and John Henson is a scary lineup with almost any point guard.

Carroll could help an already elite Bucks defense (third last season with a 102.2 defensive rating) to the top in the league and help bolster an offense that finished in the middle of the pack with a 49.9 percent effective field goal percentage (Carroll finished last season with a 57.9 percentage).

New York Knicks
2015-2016 committed salary: $32 million
Projected cap space: $21-$28 million

The only team in a worse situation than the Lakers are the Knicks. Only two players are signed for significant money, Carmelo Anthony ($23 million) and Jose Calderon ($7.4 million).

The Knicks need help everywhere as they finished 28th in defensive rating (110 points per 100 possessions) and 29th in offensive rating (99.9 points per 100 possessions). Unfortunately, Carroll is unlikely to leave Atlanta for New York and all its misery.

Detroit Pistons
2015-2016 committed salary: $36 million

Projected cap space: $8-$26 million

With Reggie Jackson as the projected point guard, Andre Drummond controlling the middle and Stan Van Gundy manning the roster, Carroll could be the missing piece in Detroit.

Greg Monroe is almost certainly out of Detroit after signing his qualifying offer last summer in order to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Even with the acquisition of Ersan Ilyasova, the Pistons need a significant contributor on the wing with only Jodie Meeks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope having played more than 1000 minutes among returning wings. Stanley Johnson was drafted at No. 8, but he can’t be expected to make a big impact right away.

The Pistons finished 19th last season in defensive rating, allowing opponents to score 106.4 points per 100 possessions (average was 105.6). Carroll would be a larger upgrade on defense than on almost any other team, but could help even more on offense.

The Pistons finished with the seventh-worst effective field goal percentage at 48.2 percent, and Carroll’s percentage would be a boost. Playing Carroll as the small-ball forward could also give Drummond more space in the lane without giving up anything on the defensive end.

Boston Celtics
2015-2016 committed salary: $40 million

Projected cap space: up to $24 million

Although the Celtics have been rumored to be a possible destination for Kevin Love, Carroll may be a more realistic target for Boston.

The Celtics have Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Evan TurnerJames Young and now three rookie guards to find playing time for, however, none of these players play the same role as Carroll. Carroll would immediately help a defense that finished around the middle of the pack in defense (rating of 104.5), and would also help a team that finished the season shooting 33.6 percent from three-point range (27th in the league).

Carroll could give the Celtics what Jeff Green was supposed to give the Celtics with shooting, versatile defense and the occasional ability to create for others.

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