The Joe Johnson-Josh Smith era for the Atlanta Hawks franchise was a team in NBA limbo, legitimate enough to secure five straight playoff berths (2008-2012); but closer to being motivational fodder for the upper echelon of teams in the Eastern Conference than a true contender. That is, until ownership decided to adopt what many executives have humorously coined “Moreyball” in the summer of 2012, and the Hawks currently find themselves with an 8-4 home record and the 3rd seed.
With the hiring of former Spurs VP of Basketball Operations Danny Ferry, newly acquired Head Coach Mike Budenholzer (formerly an assistant coach for the Spurs) soon followed. But one of the more underrated moves was the signing starting forward DeMarre Carroll ($885,120) for the 2013-2014 season. The Mizzou product embraces the nickname “Junkyard Dog” for his high energy plays, hounding defense, and hustle.
A 6-8, 212-pound forward, Carroll is averaging 9.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game in 30.1 minutes this year. He gives the team an effort-based identity, and is on the floor as a player who can offer two notable qualities of a new Pick & Roll based NBA: defense and threes. (He also one of the more down-to-Earth Twitter accounts!)
Per Basketball-Reference, Carroll sees 43.2% of his field goal attempts from beyond the arc, and in just 24 games this season, his 79 three-point attempts already surpass his 70 in his entire 2012-2013 Utah campaign. This aspect of his game is improving, as he has gone form shooting 28.6% from three, to 32.9% as he grows more comfortable with the role. An interesting look at his shot chart shows that he is actually shooting 50%(7-14) on three point attempts from the left wing versus 30.8% (8-26) on the right; a point that is no doubt being analyzed and implemented into Budenholzer’s game plan (shooting 42% from three this month). We can speculate that his is improvement in this area will be a crucial part of the Hawks moving forward.
This upcoming week brings some intriguing opportunities and matchups to watch the development and play of DeMarre Carroll. Tonight, he’ll be at home versus the Los Angeles Lakers, where he’ll be challenged by a similar player in starting forward Wesley Johnson who offers high energy, defense, and threes; Nick Young who ‘s offensive prowess will make Carroll work on the defensive end, but he’ll also be prone to back door cuts and lackluster defensive effort. On December 18th (Wednesday), the Kings will come to town with the athleticism of Rudy Gay and Derrick Williams, and the home stand will end with his former club the Utah Jazz visiting on Friday, December 20th, where Gordon Hayward often initiates and executes the offensive gameplan. The path only offers a bigger test as one week from now (December 23rd), the Hawks will be visiting LeBron James and the Heat, where we’ll see how “The Junkyard Dog” handles a Miami pressure cooker.