The Atlanta Hawks underwent major offseason changes this summer and one of new acquisitions, DeMarre Carroll, figures to have a significant role for the team this season than perhaps most fans are expecting.
Carroll, 27, finally got the opportunity to play major minutes in the league last season for the Utah Jazz, and he made the most of it. Carroll played 1111 total minutes last season-- a career high for him. He also had an On Court/Off Court Net of +7.1, per 82Games.com, which was tied with Enes Kanter for highest on the team honors.
Carroll was a valuable piece to a good Jazz team that narrowly missed the playoffs down the stretch. Ty Corbin was criticized, for good reason, for his rotations but including Carroll in his starting lineup midway through the season was definitely one of his better decisions that he should get credit for.
Carroll isn't an above average shooter, passer, or even rebounder but Carroll does excel on the defensive side of the floor. The effort he gives on the defensive end stands out in a major way and it's one of the major reasons Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry brought Carroll to Atlanta.
DeMarre is a great fit for our program," Ferry said. "He is an unselfish, highly competitive player. His versatility at defending multiple positions will make him a valuable contributor to our basketball team."
New Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer will likely choose between John Jenkins, 22, and Carroll for the second wing spot to open the season next Kyle Korver. Jenkins, like Korver, is an assassin from behind the arc. Jenkins hasn't really gotten the opportunity to demonstrate just how close with Korver he can be from 3-point land. To put how close they are in perspective, Jenkins junior year at Vanderbuilt he shot 44% from 3-point land, while Korver shot a blistering 45% from 3-point range last season for the Hawks.
Budenholzer is obviously going to put out various rotations that include Jenkins, Korver, and Carroll on the perimeter, but who he trots out for tip-off is still a very intriguing, and good, dilemma to have.
Who starts on opening night at shooting guard is really the only question mark regarding the Hawks starting lineup for opening night-- barring injury of course. Jeff Teague, Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford are all basically locks to start, and log major minutes, for the 2013-14 Hawks.
Glancing over that lineup it definitely looks fine from an offensive standpoint-- outside of getting to the free throw line-- but it's also a lineup that figures to have a lot of trouble defensively on the perimeter. Jenkins works with that 4-man rotation from an offensive standpoint, but his athleticism and size concerns are likely to make him a major liability on the defensive end for the Hawks.
Perimeter defense is already a major concern with Korver and Teague on the floor together, so adding Jenkins into that mix is probably not the best idea.
The very talented Robby Kalland actually wrote about Teague's defensive issues a few months back here. Granted, his struggles came against a very good Indiana Pacers team, but if the Hawks want to eventually take that next step they can't have Teague continue to struggle on the defensive side of the floor as much as he has.
As fun as it should be to see Jenkins and Korver on the floor together on the offensive end, what happens on the other end of the court is probably for the faint-hearted. Yes, Carroll may not have Jenkins' smooth jumper, but Carroll has the athleticism, energy and size needed to be a disruptive force on the defensive end that the Hawks sorely need.
The 2013-14 Hawks figure to be fine from an offensive standpoint, but defense matters and Carroll is exactly the kind of player the Hawks need to not only start on opening night but be a major fixture of Budenholzer's rotations all season.