The Toronto Raptors have huge expectations for DeMarre Carroll this season


This summer, Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri tried to stick to his pledge to Raptors fans and pick up players during free agency that would bolster the team’s defence. He signed quite a few worthwhile contributors, none of whom made a bigger splash than DeMarre Carroll, whose four-year, $60 million contract instantly made him the highest paid player on the roster. After two solid seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, Carroll is expected to do a lot for the Raptors, both offensively and defensively. Is he up for the pressure of his new gig?

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To start, Carroll has never had a bigger role on an NBA team than he will with the Raptors. In fact, he wasn’t even considered a worthwhile contributor until two seasons ago, when he had a major breakthrough with the Hawks. In 2013-14, he averaged 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, replacing averages of 6.0 points and 2.8 rebounds from the year before. Last season, he had an even better campaign with the Hawks, helping the team earn an incredible 60-22 record and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Still, even at his best, he was the only Hawk not to make the Eastern Conference All-Star Team.

Carroll played a great complementary role, doing whatever he had to to help his team win. He rebounded, shot the three-ball, played aggressive defence and facilitated for his teammates when he could. But, he will be looked to for far more this season with the Raptors. Ujiri payed big bucks for Carroll, and he will be expecting his starting small forward to be an undisputed leader on and off the court.

Offensively, Carroll may not be the first or second option with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in the folds, but he will certainly get his fair share of touches. He can both spread the floor and finish in the paint, which the Raptors will need to keep opposing defences uncomfortable. Reasonably, the Raps should be hoping for 16 points per game from Carroll. Clearly, this would be a huge improvement from past years.

On defence, Ujiri can only expect the same effort he played with last season. Carroll’s dedication to two-way basketball could best be seen during the Eastern Conference Finals, when he put every last bit of his energy into defending LeBron James. Carroll will make a huge difference for the Raptors, who offered only the league’s 25th best defensive rating last season.

Mentally, I have no doubt that Carroll can both lead and produce on the court. His new role will be demanding, but he has always shown that he has a great head on his shoulders. Carroll will be joined by a solid group of players, so he certainly won’t have to do everything himself. As of right now, the biggest question is his actual skill level.

Carroll is good, but he has never played quite good enough to earn $15 million per year. He was always the fourth or fifth best player in Atlanta, but he will need to suddenly find ways to be one of the best in Toronto. I have my doubts, but we will have to wait until training camp to see what he is capable of in his new home.

Next: This season could be James Johnson's last chance

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