NBA columnist Zach Lowe said on a recent podcast that Brooklyn Nets forward DeMarre Carroll could be a good fit with the Houston Rockets. How likely is a deal?
The Brooklyn Nets acquired forward DeMarre Carroll in July 2017 as a salary dump, getting a low 2018 first-round pick along with him, as well as the Los Angeles Lakers’ second-round selection, from the Toronto Raptors.
It’s been a fascinating journey of highs and lows for Carroll in his career. A late first-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2009, Carroll spent some time in what is now the G League before being dealt to the Houston Rockets at the 2011 trade deadline.
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Then Carroll experienced the dread of being unwanted, waived by the Rockets in early April 2011.
He caught a deal with the Denver Nuggets after the 2011 lockout, but was waived in February 2012.
Signed by the Utah Jazz a few days later, Carroll evolved into a useful role player with the Jazz in 2012-13, playing defense and providing hustle to the second unit.
He signed with the Atlanta Hawks as a free agent in 2013-14 and his growth continued. He became a full-time starter and his shooting improved to the point he was a legitimate 3-and-D factor for an Atlanta team that won 60 games in 2014-15.
He was considered one of the top value targets in free agency in the summer of 2015, at least until the Raptors threw a four-year, $60 million offer on the table that suddenly transformed Carroll from undervalued contributor to overpaid role player, almost overnight.
It did not help Carroll’s cause that he missed 56 games with knee problems in 2015-16, his first season in Toronto.
The following season, he struggled to find minutes, his 3-point shooting tailed off and the Raptors — seeing themselves as a contender in the East — were looking for a buyer for a $15 million guy who averaged 8.9 points, 3.8 boards and shot .400/.341/.761.
Enter the rebuilding Brooklyn Nets.
General manager Sean Marks took on Carroll, got the two picks as a sweetener, and hoped for the best.
As it turns out, Carroll’s reunion with former Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson provided quite a tonic.
He averaged a career-high 13.5 points per game, stabilized the small forward spot, provided a strong veteran voice in the locker room and rehabilitated his shooting to 37.1 percent from deep.
Throw in career-best averages of 6.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists and Carroll was suddenly not so over-priced.
With a year remaining on his contract, Carroll has some value as an expiring contract, but he could have even more value as a 3-and-D guy for a contender (wait, weren’t we just on this road in Toronto?).
ESPN’s Zach Lowe theorized on the possibility of a Carroll trade to a contender on his July 31 podcast (yes, yes I am that far behind in my podcast listening).
"I don’t think the Nets are dying to buy out DeMarre Carroll, they like him, a great locker room guy for them last year. They also sold the idea when they acquired him of, ‘Yes, we paid $31 million for a bad pick, which became the 29th pick, but we believe we can rehabilitate his trade value down the line and flip him for positive value down the line.’I don’t think that is going to happen at this point. And I can see everyone agreeing, ’Hey, we stink again because we haven’t had a draft pick in 17 years and you want to play for a contender, let’s make it happen.’"
On the surface, the idea makes some sense. If Brooklyn doesn’t make the hoped-for leap forward in 2018-19, Carroll becomes an eminently tradeable asset with the expiring contract.
Lowe speculated that the Houston Rockets (wait, weren’t we on this road before, too?) could be a great fit for Carroll’s game.
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That makes sense from the standpoint that the Rockets gave up a lot of veteran experience on the wing by letting Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute walk in free agency in this summer and are reportedly on the verge of signing Carmelo Anthony, who offers little of the “D” in that whole 3-and-D equation.
But here’s the thing that makes a Carroll deal to a contender — Houston or otherwise — highly unlikely, regardless of how well or poorly the Nets are doing: 29 of the NBA’s 30 teams are over the cap for 2018-19, with only the Sacramento Kings (not exactly a “contender”) having any appreciable room.
That means the Nets would have to get salary back in a potential deal, very likely salary that extends beyond 2018-19. That means money that spills onto the line on the cap sheet for 2019-20, a line where Brooklyn (you may have heard) could have somewhere around $60 million to spend.
Do you cut into that by taking on an asset a contender has deemed unworthy of contributing? Given what Marks has been doing to open up that space, it seems illogical to throw a pile of rocks into that nicely carved hole of cap space for next summer.
Without a lot of real basketball news to talk about in August, it’s speculation season.
I saw something in the last day or so detailing why the Cleveland Cavaliers should trade for D’Angelo Russell (not accounting for the fact there is nothing on Cleveland’s current roster worth trading for from Brooklyn’s perspective).
So, yeah. That’s pretty much where we can file the “trade DeMarre Carroll to a contender” discussion. Interesting August talking point, pretty unlikely and illogical February reality.