How will Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll get his baskets?


The Toronto Raptors first game tips off today in Vancouver, and despite it being merely an exhibition (or, in the annoying NBA wording, “pre-season”) match, there’s no shortage of things we’ll be watching for. First among equals is the change at the small forward position, where DeMarre Carroll replaces Terrence Ross.

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Carroll is expected to provide an upgrade at both ends of the floor. I’m going to refrain from discussing his defensive impact until I’ve absorbed a few games, but I’m certainly ready to fuss about his likely offensive contribution.

Jan 16, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll (5) and Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) battle for the ball during the first half at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

When perusing Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA players report, I noted a concern about Carroll (whom the magazine ranked #81), to the effect that his 3-ball shooting success last season with the Atlanta Hawks was due to ball movement. Only one of his 120 made long balls was unassisted. Given the Raptors’ underwhelming position in assist rankings last season (#22), that’s worrisome.

In plain English, Carroll was able to dramatically increase his 3-ball attempts and makes in Atlanta because his teammates were able to get him the ball in “good shot” situations. Flipping that thought around, he’s never demonstrated the ability to create his own shot from distance [note career stats, in which 3-balls simply weren’t part of his modest arsenal].

Can the Raptors find the switch to turn on their ball-movement offense? Largely that depends on DeMar DeRozan, the player most likely to dribble the ball as he probes for a chink in the defense’s armor. While he’s not a stopper in Rudy Gay’s class, he’s certainly guilty of chewing up a lot of the 24-second clock time and again. DeMar is our team’s top scorer, so I’m not complaining (well, maybe a little), but he’ll need to modify his behaviour somewhat to keep the ball moving.

DeMarre fired away at a 39.5% rate from distance last season, a career high, and was over 40% in both playoff runs with the Hawks. He should be the real deal for the Raptors, but only if he gets the ball in prime catch-and-shoot positions.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Coach Dwane Casey and his staff will need time to watch Carroll with his new mates before crafting a few plays with him as first option. We shouldn’t expect Kyle Lowry to find Carroll at every opportunity, nor DeMar to pass every time. But we will be watching the number of times all five Raptors touch the ball in a half-court set. If that occurs sufficiently, our new man will get his shots in his comfort zone.

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