Realistically, what should fans expect from Carroll?
For all that’s been made of the Spurs’ refusal to adapt to the modern, 3-point heavy brand of basketball, one major trait that each of the championship-winning Spurs teams had was their affinity with the corner 3-pointer.
A decade ago, the Spurs were taking nearly double the amount of corner 3s than any team in the NBA, ranking among the top-five in every season from 1999-2015, per Shot Tracker. Over the years, those numbers have fluctuated; the Spurs ranked just 15th in 2018.
With Carroll (and their other roster additions this season), the Spurs could be poised to return to that championship trend. On film, it’s evident that Carroll’s bread-and-butter is the above-the-break 3-pointer (any 3-pointer not at the corners). Though, as an added benefit, the 10-year vet is above league-average in both the both sides adjacent the top of the key, and in the left corner, as evidenced by his shot chart, per Austin Clemons.
In lineups where the Spurs run, say, Aldridge as a center, and let Carroll and DeRozan roam the perimeter as forwards, Carroll has a chance to do what he does best.
He has a keen understanding of gravity, and where and how to rotate to ensure defenders can no longer send doubles towards Aldridge. In the aforementioned spots — the left side above-the-break (48 percent on 27 shots) and left side corner (44 percent on 25 shots) — Carroll was excellent, and it opens the potential for plays like this.
Optimism aside, there’s obviously a reason why Carroll felt this Spurs signing would be one of his final times to cash in on a “big payday,” and why it made no sense to wait and sign. Over the last two seasons, his defensive box plus-minus and Defensive Player Impact Plus-Minus have each fallen into the neutral-negative range, a far cry from his standout seasons in 2012-13 and 2015-16.
He’s definitely still got the ability to contain even the best of players in bunches, as evidenced by his defense on league leading-scorer James Harden earlier this past season. Take a look at how he matches Harden step-for-step and takes his momentum, forcing a difficult look.
It’s worth wondering how often the Spurs can expect this DeMarre Carroll, though. Pair his declining defensive metrics with a suboptimal true shooting percentage and it’s reasonable to see why, even as a solid player, this will be the eighth jersey Carroll can add to his closet when it’s all said and done.