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NBA AM: DeMarre Carroll’s Profile Keeps Rising

DeMarre Carroll was the lone Hawks starter not to make the All-Star game, but he has been their playoff MVP

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From Obscurity to Huge Payday On the Horizon

Four players from the Atlanta Hawks’ starting lineup received an All-Star invite earlier this season. For the Hawks, who perennially fly under the mainstream radar, it was an overwhelming accomplishment. The team went on to reel off 60 wins and Mike Budenholzer received Coach of the Year honors. In short, it has been the year of recognition for an often forgotten Atlanta franchise that has, quiet as kept, reached the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons.

But one player has remained largely absent from the mainstream attention – veteran forward DeMarre Carroll.

Carroll was the lone Hawks starter not to receive an All-Star invite. While Carroll’s consistent offensive and defensive play has been an integral part of the Hawks’ success this season; high energy, defensive minded and do-the-dirty-work type of guys are often left to dwell in the shadows of obscurity.

However, something has shifted during the early going of the 2014-15 playoffs. While the league’s stars typically shine the brightest on the postseason stage, Carroll has been the Hawks’ MVP of the playoffs through the team’s first eight contests – and the numbers he’s producing are staggering for a player once thought to be just a hustle player.

Carroll is averaging 18.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 56 percent shooting from the field so far in this year’s playoffs. The forward is also shooting an impressive 47 percent from three-point range. In fact, Carroll’s last five games have been played at an elite level with averages of 22 points, six rebounds and 2.6 assists on 60 percent shooting from the floor (56 percent from three-point range).

The stage is clearly set for Carroll, an unrestricted free agent this summer, to receive a huge pay increase. But will the extra digits in his bank account come from the Hawks?

Carroll was one of the many value-based moves exiled Hawks executive Danny Ferry pulled off while reshaping the franchise. Carroll signed a two-year, $5 million deal in free agency back in 2013 to join Atlanta and immediately became the team’s full-time starter at small forward.

The Hawks have just $39 million in guaranteed salaries on the books next season, which gives the team flexibility in retaining their free agents and working the market for outside help. Millsap ($12.4 million) and Carroll’s ($3.2 million) cap holds eats into a bit of the Hawks’ salary cap room – and you can surely pencil in Carroll making significantly more in his next deal than his hold currently represents. Factoring in forward Pero Antic’s cap hold ($1.6 million) the Hawks would still have roughly $8 million in room to work the free agency market.

Before finding success in Atlanta, Carroll spent time with Denver, Houston, Memphis and Utah with varying degrees of productivity. But those days are now behind Carroll. While far from a superstar, the sixth year veteran has arrived and this summer he will be compensated fully, by someone, for his dedication, perseverance and hard work.

Fire Sale in Brooklyn?

The Brooklyn Nets entered the 2013-14 campaign with a massive payroll, nearly $200 million after luxury tax, star players and title aspirations. The team fizzled in the second of the playoffs. The Nets entered the 2014-15 campaign with much lower expectations but still underachieved winning just 38 games despite featuring a cast of former All-Star talent.

So it comes as no surprise the team will strongly consider being aggressive with retooling their roster.

“We’re going to explore all options, as we have [previously],” Nets general manager Billy King said, according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. “Will there be a trade? There could be, but I’m not sure. But we’re going to look at every option to get better.”

The only player potentially safe from the sub .500 unit is former All-Star center Brook Lopez – who has a $16.7 million player option for next season.

“For us to get in the playoffs that stretch, [Lopez] was the guy who carried us. He was our best player,” King said. “Without Brook Lopez, there’s no way we even get to where we go to this year.

“I’ll say it again: We want him back. I want him back, [coach] Lionel [Hollins] wants him back, ownership wants him back. We’ve all said it. There shouldn’t be any more doubts about it.”

Former All-Star guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson account for $46 million of the team’s payroll next season and both guys, while productive, are clearly in big declines.

King says he will explore all opportunities this summer, which could leave Johnson and Williams in a new zip code before the start of the 2015-16 campaign.

“We’re going to explore all options, as we have [previously],” King said. “Will there be a trade? There could be, but I’m not sure. But we’re going to look at every option to get better.”

Despite Brooklyn’s declines, the team has reached the playoffs for three straight campaigns. Although the club’s win totals have continued to decline in the same time period – 49, 44 and 38.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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