With Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sidelined, the best option for the Brooklyn Nets to replace him in the starting lineup should be veteran DeMarre Carroll.
Back in October, when the Brooklyn Nets were just starting the preseason, coach Kenny Atkinson was using a starting group of Jarrett Allen at center and Allen Crabbe and D’Angelo Russell at the guard spots, with Caris LeVert and DeMarre Carroll manning the forward positions.
Carroll was getting the starting nod in place of incumbent starter Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who was sidelined throughout the preseason with a strained left adductor.
However, Carroll sat out the final two preseason games before he underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right ankle the day before the regular-season opener and wound up missing the first 11 games of the campaign himself.
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Hollis-Jefferson had returned at that point and Jared Dudley had assumed the starting role at the 4.
When Dudley was removed from the first unit, it was Hollis-Jefferson who replaced him and now we’ve gone the full 360 degrees back to where we were three months ago.
Hollis-Jefferson is sidelined with a strained adductor, this time his right, and the Nets have a gap to fill in the starting group at the 4 spot.
And once again, Carroll is the right choice to fill the void.
The 32-year-old is now in his 10th NBA season and he had some difficulties getting his touch back upon his return to the rotation.
In 27 games this season, he’s averaging 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 23.6 minutes per game while shooting 37.1 percent overall and 31.9 percent from 3.
However, he’s been very effective over the last five games for the Nets, putting up 12.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 28.0 minutes on solid 45.5 percent shooting overall while knocking down 37.5 percent from deep.
Carroll’s NBA reputation was built as a 3-and-D wing on a couple of very good Atlanta Hawks teams, teams that included Atkinson as an assistant.
After a couple of tough, injury-plagued seasons after signing as a free agent with the Toronto Raptors, Carroll was acquired in July 2017 by the Nets with a couple of 2018 draft picks as a salary dump by Toronto.
Carroll responded with the most productive season of his career last season, averaging 13.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists — all career-highs — in 29.9 minutes per game.
In 73 games, all starts, he shot 41.4 percent overall, but a solid 37.1 percent from 3-point range, and made 76.4 percent of his foul shots while getting to the line a career-best 3.4 times per game.
Carroll has become even a bit more proficient at finding free throws, shooting 79.7 percent this year while getting there 4.5 times per 36 minutes, up from his 4.1 attempts per 36 a season ago.
Defensively, he’s a downgrade from Hollis-Jefferson, but only in that Carroll would struggle if matched up with an opponent’s conventional 5.
But at 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds, Carroll is switchable 1 through 4 defensively and provides a much better floor spacing option for Atkinson than does the 3-point-shooting-challenged RHJ.
Dudley is playing better off the bench than he did as a starter and rather than disrupt that dynamic, putting Carroll back into the starting unit — where he had been for all put five of his 314 appearances over the previous five seasons — just makes more sense.
Carroll had been playing more minutes than Hollis-Jefferson over the four games prior to RHJ’s injury, averaging 26.2 minutes to Hollis-Jefferson’s 24.4 (which included the 43 minutes he played in the double-overtime victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 26).
The Nets resume play on Wednesday when they host the New Orleans Pelicans at Barclays Center and it would be a surprise if Carroll weren’t on the floor to start 2019.