DeMarre Carroll came to the Brooklyn Nets last season as a salary dump, with the Nets acquiring the 2018 draft picks they used to select Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs as the sweetener for taking on the final two years and $30.2 million on Carroll’s contract.
But a funny thing happened on the road to NBA oblivion for Carroll — he stepped up with a career year, averaging 13.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists in a team-high 29.9 minutes per game while shooting .414/.371/.764.
Carroll earned his NBA reputation as a 3-and-D player with the very good Atlanta Hawks teams of the middle of this decade, but after signing with the Raptors, injuries contributed to a decline in his game.
All that said, Carroll is facing a fight to keep the job due to the emergence of Caris LeVert.
The 32-year-old veteran acknowledged this to NetsDaily’s Bryan Fonseca and sounds ready to take on a different role should Atkinson turn to LeVert at the 3.
"“At the end of the day, that’s what coaches do. That’s his job, to put the best lineup on the floor. We definitely are going to play a lot of small ball. It’s interchangeable. “At the end of the day, we’ve just got to put the guys on the court who are going to help us win and who are going to help us compete at a high level.”"
LeVert has been the breakout player of training camp, dazzling teammates with his driving and scoring ability. Entering his third year, LeVert is versatile, having played the point guard spot at times last season, and could provide the Nets with an additional playmaker/ball handler.
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Musa and Kurucs are also in the mix at the 3, but neither is likely to have a large role. Kurucs is inexperienced and is likely ticketed to spend much of the season with Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets.
Musa, meanwhile, was able to return to practice for the first time on Monday, per NetsDaily, after he injured his right ankle while playing for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team during FIBA World Cup qualifying last month.
The 19-year-old has added some weight to his frame, graduating from spaghetti-thin to merely pencil-thin. Atkinson compared him favorably to former NBA role player Mike Dunleavy, per Tom Dowd of NBA.com, citing his combination of size and offensive acumen.
Projection: LeVert will likely emerge as the starter, sooner rather than later, perhaps as soon as opening night on Oct. 17. He projects to 28-30 minutes, with Carroll getting most of the rest.
Musa will get spot duty and may spent some time at Long Island, as well, as he learns the American game.