In today’s basketball analytics paradigm, all of the talk is on efficiency, and for good reason: efficiency is highly correlated with winning. Per possession statistics like Offensive and Defensive Rating, and Synergy’s PPP rule the roost, and when they don’t, per shot statistics like eFG% or TS% step forward. Again, this makes sense: being efficient on both ends of the floor is obviously a good thing.
But when a player dramatically alters the possessions themselves, sometimes we analysts overlook that influence. Enter DeMarre Carroll. Last season, he shot an average-looking 46% from the field (though that was by far the best percentage of his career), and just 28.6% from 3: about average to below average overall for his position. Most look at these numbers and pigeonhole Carroll right there: wing players who can’t shoot tend not to be productive players.
DeMarre, though, is incredibly productive, by uniquely influencing the possession. Let’s look at how he does this:
DeMarre Carroll led the Jazz last season in turnovers per 36 minutes, allowing just 1.1 in that timeframe. To give you a comparison, Gordon Hayward finished with 2.1 TO/36, Alec Burks with 2.3 TO/36, and catch-and-shooters Randy Foye and Marvin Williams ended up with 1.3 and 1.5 TO/36, respectively. Yes, he even beat out notoriously turnover-stingy Al Jefferson, who ended with 1.5 TO/36.
Carroll’s total leaves him 15th in the NBA overall amongst players with over 1000 minutes, with most of the players above him of the extreme catch-and-shoot variety (such as Steve Novak, Shane Battier, Kyle Korver, etc.). Given that estimates for the value of a turnover range from -.9 points to -1.5 points, Carroll may be giving up a point fewer per game than his counterparts in this category alone. But we’re just getting started.
EYE-POPPING OFFENSIVE REBOUND NUMBERS
I wish there were a way to make a player famous for a certain facet of their game, but alas, that generally happens through the vagaries of public opinion. DeMarre Carroll’s offensive rebounding at his position is absolutely world-class. Let’s begin with his per 36 numbers again: Carroll averages 2.8 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes, compared to just 0.9 for Gordon Hayward, 1.2 for Alec Burks, 1.1 for Marvin Williams, and 0.3 for Randy Foye. Pretty impressive, no?
But when you compare him to the league overall, Carroll really shines. DeMarre ranks first in the league (again, minimum 1000 minutes) amongst non-PF and non-Cs in offensive rebounds overall: his 2.8 ORB/36 total beating the nearest challenger, Dante Cunningham, by over 10%. Carroll is the only player amongst all PGs, SGs, and SFs to rank in the top 50. He garners 9.1% of the possible offensive rebounds when he’s in the game, another league-leading performance for his position.
This isn’t just a single season fluke either. He led the league for non-big offensive rebounding in 2011-2012. In his second season, he played only 50 minutes. Even in his rookie season, 2009-2010, he led the league! We have very significant evidence that DeMarre Carroll is very significantly great at offensive rebounding.
The linear weights estimates (link above) for an offensive rebound seem to put the value at about 0.75 points, but I would argue that the value is even greater for Carroll: via Synergy, he averaged 1.31 PPP on his offensive rebounding scoring opportunities last season, good for 11th in the league. That improves significantly on the Jazz’s overall 1.09 points per possession on offensive rebound opportunities. This may just be wish casting, but lets put the value of an Carroll offensive rebound at 0.9 points. Doing the multiplication, he’s getting 1.5 to 2.3 more points per 36 minutes than his wing counterparts based on his offensive rebounding alone.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S “STEAL” MORE
Carroll also leads the Jazz with 1.9 steals per 36 minutes. This is again higher than his playing time competition: Hayward has 1.0 STL/36, Burks 1.1 STL/36, Foye 1.1 STL/36, and Marvin Williams finished with 0.8 STL/36.
Here, too, DeMarre Carroll compares extremely well with the rest of the league. Carroll ranks second in the league in steals per 36 minutes for a SF, and third in the league for non-guards, only Corey Brewer and Andray Blatche (strangely) finished higher. Again, the Jazz have someone who is world-class at his position at an aspect of the game.
Much like with turnovers, linear weights estimates the value of a steal at about 0.9-1.5 points. Once again, Carroll gains a point on his competition.
So how does it all add up? In these three respects of the game, Carroll is helping the Jazz by somewhere between 2.7 and 4.8 points per 36 minutes. That is a massive improvement: that jump would put the Jazz somewhere between 5th and 10th in the league in scoring margin, up from 15th. In short, the Jazz would have almost certainly made the playoffs, and may have even had home court advantage in the first round.
The brilliant part about Carroll’s season last year, however, was that he was still an effective player even ignoring his war-on-possessions specialties. Carroll’s FG% (46%) was a full 5 percentage points higher than any other season in his career, and his 0.98 PPP on personal offensive possessions was 95th in the league out of 400-500 players. The Jazz offense improved when he was on the floor, even in shooting percentage (albeit by less than 1 percent).
His defense, which I heavily attacked last year, became average this season: metrics on his performance range from somewhat below average (his 0.93 PPP allowed in Synergy) to very good (a 4 point DRTG jump when he was on the floor, via NBA.com, and his 12.6 PER allowed on 82games.com). Carroll is no longer limited to a specialist’s role.
The end result: a player who has largely eliminated his weaknesses, and improved his league-leading strengths. DeMarre Carroll’s unconventionality shouldn’t stop us from appreciating just how effective he was when on the floor last season, and a free agency offer representative of his talents should be extended.