From the junkyard to the penthouse.
DeMarre Carroll and the Raptors have reportedly agreed to a four-year contract worth $60 million, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal, which makes Carroll Toronto's highest-paid player, kicks in for the 2015-16 season and runs through 2018-19.
"I will be playing for Toronto Raptors next year," Carroll confirmed on Instagram. "I'm Blessed for this Opportunity!"
Carroll, 28, averaged a career-high 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists for the 60-win Hawks last season. Although the 2009 first-round pick was the only member of Atlanta's starting five not selected to the 2015 All-Star Game, he contributed greatly to the cause. Carroll served as the team's primary wing defender all season, and he stepped up as a scorer in the playoffs, notching 20+ points in six straight games against the Nets and Wizards.
In free agency, timing is everything, and Carroll's proved to be excellent. The combination of his career-year production, Atlanta's strong season, the premium being put on "three and D" wings, and the playoff spotlight paid off big time. This deal's $15 million average salary is nearly double Carroll's $7.9 million total earnings through his six-year career, and he will be making at least five times more money next season than his $2.4 million salary from 2014-15. What's more, Carroll will earn more next season than his former All-Star teammates Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. Now that's a come up for the forgotten fifth starter known as the junkyard dog.
For Toronto, this deal amounts to a calculated overpay aimed at addressing the roster's biggest weakness: perimeter defense. The Raptors' defense regressed significantly last season, and Toronto's high-dollar backcourt tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan isn't equipped to slow down elite wing scorers. Carroll, who ranked No. 20 in SI.com's 'Top 25 free agents of 2015' list, plugs in pretty cleanly next to that duo, assuming it returns, serving as a complementary offensive option willing to let the high-usage guys do their thing while also taking on the toughest defensive assignments. Assuming Carroll can continue to knock down three-pointers at a solid rate, as he did in each of the last two seasons for the Hawks, he will help compensate for DeRozan's floor-shrinking lack of range and should make life a little easier for Lowry off the dribble.
The rising salary cap will make this deal look more reasonable, especially two years down the road, but there's really no way to spin this as a strong value even in a forward-looking context. At 28, Carroll isn't going to be delivering much more for the Raptors than he did for the Hawks, so this price can't be viewed as a bet on scaled-up production. To date, the best comparable contract agreement of the summer is Milwaukee's five-year, $70 million deal with Khris Middleton. Side by side, Toronto is paying more per-year for an older player with less talent and growth potential.
It's worth noting that Ujiri is well-positioned to splurge, as Lowry ($12 million) and DeRozan ($9.5 million) are both under contract for next year at reasonable numbers and he succeeded in dumping Greivis Vasquez to the Bucks in a draft day deal. Carroll will be a welcome addition for a Raptors team whose season ended in disappointing fashion. Can Carroll be the piece that helps Toronto win a playoff series for just the second time in franchise history? It's possible, pending Ujiri's next moves, but it's hard to see this investment, by itself, raising the Raptors' ceiling much more than that. In this new salary cap climate, $60 million is apparently no longer enough money to land a true game-changer.