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In Losing Effort, Carroll’s Effort Shines Bright

In an ugly, 91-83 loss to the Brooklyn Nets in game three, DeMarre Carroll stood out as the lone bright spot for the Atlanta Hawks. He scored 22 points on 9-12 shooting and 3-5 from three, while chipping in six rebounds.

Carroll bounced back from a woeful game two, where he only scored two points on 1-8 shooting and 0-5 from three, although he did chip in with five assists and eight rebounds. In game one, Carroll scored 17 with three assists and five rebounds, while playing his usual stingy defense.

The “Junkyard Dog” has finally found his home in Atlanta, where they have re-worked his jump shot over the past two years. He has increased his percentage from 28.6 percent while with the Utah Jazz in 2012-13 to 36.2 percent in 2013-14 to 39.5 percent this past season with Atlanta.

Carroll’s attempts have increased, as well. While with Utah, Carroll only attempted 70 threes. Coach Mike Budenholzer has encouraged Carroll to take more three-point shots, especially from the wing – so over the past two years; he’s taken 572 three-point shots. The previous four years on Memphis, Houston, Denver and Utah? He only attempted 95.

Carroll has improved dramatically at Atlanta under Budenholzer, in a somewhat Spursian way. He was picked 27th overall by Memphis as an energetic, athletic wing who could slash. Carroll was traded to Houston, waived by Houston, picked up by Denver and waived again. Utah picked him up and he still didn’t show much promise on the perimeter before landing in Atlanta two years ago.

He has really developed his slashing and ball-handling the past two years, and provides them with valuable defense that has become even more crucial with Thabo Sefolosha missing the rest of the season. He had career highs in points per game and shooting percentages this season, and continues to grow as a player. It’s a credit to Budenholzer and his staff that he has transformed into arguably the Hawks most important player this postseason.

Although missing Sefolosha puts an even bigger spotlight on Carroll once they move on to play Cleveland or Chicago. Carroll will play even more minutes against big, physical wings a la LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard as the Hawks hit the later rounds. How will his body hold up? There isn’t much help behind him.

Kent Bazemore is a long, athletic wing who can handle shooting guards and smaller small forwards defensively, but not beefier wings. Maybe Paul Millsap can handle bigger wings if Carroll gets in foul trouble.

Budenholzer brought over a lot of the same philosophy he learned under Spurs coach Greg Popovich, by developing players, playing selflessly and constant motion on the offensive end. He’s found team-first, defensive, and complementary wings in Kyle Korver and Carroll just like in San Antonio, with Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.

Carroll was always known as a player who did the dirty work – scrapping for offensive rebounds, diving on the floor for steals and being really physical. He’s started diversifying his game, which have led to a career year and him being one of the more valuable two-way players in the NBA. In order for Atlanta to make a run, they’ll need him to be at his absolute best.

Today was a good sign that Carroll’s success can continue.

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