Toronto Raptors Rumors: DeMarre Carroll Nearing Return

Dec 5, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll (5) defends against Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the first half at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll (5) defends against Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the first half at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Raptors are having the best regular season in franchise history, and they’ve done it largely without their third-best player. But that could be changing in the near future.

At a time of the year where player acquisitions are typically of the buyout variety or possibly a journeyman coming over from the Chinese Basketball Association, the Toronto Raptors are on the verge of receiving a player that could significantly impact the rest of the season and the Eastern Conference playoffs.

That player is of course DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors’ big free-agent signing from the summer. Carroll is one of the league’s elite role players with his ability to defend multiple positions and space the floor with his consistent three-point shooting.

The Raptors’ defense has slipped considerably over the last month and a half, largely to do with their poor perimeter defense that has left their big men with an unfair load. The pending return of Carroll could signal the end of the defensive woes on the perimeter and help put the entire team in a more comfortable position on the both ends of the floor.

The rotating cast of characters at the small forward position has included James Johnson, Norman Powell and even DeMar DeRozan briefly playing out of position. All of these players either fail to provide the shooting and/or defense that Carroll can bring. Consistency and reliability can do wonders for a team, especially for a team that’s looking to get in a rhythm as the playoffs approach.

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So when exactly will Carroll be making his return to the team?

According to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg, a return is right around the corner:

While the team probably would have preferred to have Carroll for a complete season, there could be some benefits from the time that he missed. Terrence Ross has made the most of an increased opportunity this season and excelled in a bench role.

Despite still coming off the bench, he’s transformed himself into a much more reliable shooter since the beginning of January and seems to have found his place in the rotation. His three-point percentage has been better than 39 percent since Carroll went down with his injury and has been a significant factor in keeping the Raptors in the win column.

Credit must be given to Raptors head coach  Dwane Casey, as he encouraged Ross to take on a bigger role when he was on the court without dramatically increasing his minutes from when the team was at full strength.

The development over that time will help as Ross will be able to be a key contributor in a very similar role once the team is at full strength based on the confidence he gained from this period of time.

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Carroll’s absence also provided an opportunity for Pattrick Patterson to get out of his early-season funk and more or less rediscover his offensive game.

If Carroll were healthy, his ability to play at the power forward position might have meant that Patterson would have been relegated to the bench in favor of small-ball lineups for a Toronto team that is looking to make its mark in the Eastern Conference.

With Patterson rolling once again, you might see him operate briefly as a small-ball center next to Carroll is the Raptors want to throw a five-out offensive look. Even if that isn’t the route they intend on going, having Patterson shooting the ball with more confidence will only help provide more depth for this team as the playoffs approach.

While there’s no guarantee’s what shape or form Carroll will be in when he returns to the team this season, it’s hard to understate the potential impact he could have on the roster. The Raptors are on pace for their first-ever 50-win season, despite the fact they are missing their third-best player.

In a first-round matchup against Paul George, Jimmy Butler or Nicolas Batum, having Carroll’s lockdown defense as well as floor spacing would be crucial to gaining an edge against the talented wings in the East, not to mention a potential series against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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The Raptors have missed some grit, intensity and defense down the stretch and as Carroll’s nickname “the junkyard dog” would suggest, his return could be the injection of life that this team needs.