How the Rockets benefitted from the Spurs’ incompetence

DeMarre Carroll (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
DeMarre Carroll (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

With the Houston Rockets officially adding DeMarre Carroll yesterday, here’s how the ultimately benefitted from the incompetence of the San Antonio Spurs.

When it was announced that the Houston Rockets were the favorites to land DeMarre Carroll following his buyout, several questions arose regarding how exactly the Rockets and Carroll arrived at this juncture. After all, Carroll was the Spurs’ prized free agent of the 2019 offseason, which is why they gave him a long-term contract.

The Spurs were so sold on Carroll that they traded 3-point sniper Davis Bertans in order to bring in Carroll, which was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Think about that for a second. The Spurs moved Bertans, who is shooting 42.4 percent from deep, which is the third-best in the league among players with at least 350 long-range attempts, so they could land Carroll.

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By the numbers, Bertans would actually be the Spurs’ best 3-point shooter this season. But the Spurs made the decision to part with him to bring in DeMarre Carroll so they could secure the necessary trade exception to land Marcus Morris. Unfortunately for the Spurs, they were left hanging at the altar by Marcus Morris, who they thought they had taken off the market, which was explained by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Granted, they couldn’t control the fact that they were burned by Morris, since that doesn’t necessarily happen often (although it’s starting to happen more), but they made the decision to shift their attention to Carroll to replace Bertans prior to anything related to Morris. Except, they actually didn’t give him any attention at all once the season started.

Carroll had more DNP-CD’s than he had actual games played, as he only played in 15 of the Spurs’ 54 games, and never played 20+ minutes in any of the games he played in. Speaking of minutes, Carroll only played an average of nine minutes per game, and played a combined 21 minutes over his last five games.

Carroll also hasn’t played since January 8th, meaning he’s been inactive for the Spurs’ last 18 games. And this was someone they were banking on to replace Bertans? This isn’t to say that Carroll couldn’t have done that, but the Spurs never gave him a real shot to take on that role.

So why did they sign him in the first place? Especially to a three-year deal worth 21 million. It would be one thing if they gave him a minimum deal, because then the financial repercussions wouldn’t have been as stiff. But since they gave him a long-term deal, it surely wasn’t optimal to have to eat it, which is why they tried trading him at the trade deadline.

But because he received so little playing time, he essentially didn’t have much trade value because he hadn’t been able to put much on tape, which is the Spurs’ fault. So they weren’t able to move him, yet they remained persistent on not having him as part of their future. This is why they ultimately ended up buying him out.

This allowed the Houston Rockets to swoop in and snag the Junkyard Dog off the buyout market, and the Rockets ultimately only paid $511,000 for his services, which was first explained by salary capologist David Weiner. But the Spurs ultimately took a severe financial hit by buying him out, as he only gave them back $811,000 in the buyout, as reported by ESPN’s Bobby Marks. As if that weren’t bad enough, the Spurs’ future financial commitment is even worse.

Cap hit on the DeMarre Carroll waiver in San Antonio (if the stretch provision is not used):

?2019/20: $6.8M (was $7M)
?2020/21: $6.2M (was $6.65M)
?2021/22: $1.2M (was $1.35M)

The 2020/21 salary will be reduced if Carroll signs for the minimum exception or more.

— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 19, 2020

The Spurs will still be dealing with the consequences of buying out Carroll through the 2021-22 season, and will have paid a total of $14.2 million to Carroll when it’s all said and done.  This was a clear victory for Carroll, as he only gave back $811k in exchange for $14.2 million.

So in essence, the Spurs will have paid an exponential amount of money….just to get rid of him. And now they’re without him and Bertans, who is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. It’s hard to understand what the Spurs were thinking or if they were thinking at all as it pertained to Carroll, but the Rockets ultimately ended up as the beneficiary of the Spurs’ gaffe and lapse in judgement.

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On behalf of Houston Rockets fans, I’d like to say thank you to Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs organization. It’s much appreciated, and very much overdue. Please don’t let this be the last time.