Toronto locks up the emerging DeMarre Carroll, Chicago retains Mike Dunleavy

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Toronto locks up the emerging DeMarre Carroll, Chicago retains Mike Dunleavy
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DeMarre Carroll was designed to keep you on your toes.

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He’s a lovely guy, he really is, but his whole existence as a lockdown defender is meant to scare you away from swinging the ball to your go-to swingman, and his status as both the Atlanta Hawks’ leading postseason scorer through two rounds and the exact sort of dude who could have a great shot at limiting LeBron James were why some gave a beat-up Hawks squad a chance at downing Cleveland in last season’s Eastern Conference finals.

We all know what happened next. Carroll went down in Game 1 with one of the more frightening injuries of the season, concussion-protocol scares excluded, and though he returned in spite of that bruised knee the Hawks were never the same.

Now they’re truly never going to be the same, renouncing Carroll while trading for big man Tiago Splitter with the resultant salary cap space, and watching as DeMarre Carroll has moved on to Toronto on a four-year, $60 million deal. Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri likes frightening guys, and this is a frightening move in spite of the cheery way that DeMarre announced it.

The terms shouldn’t scare you. Carroll will cloud the Raps’ cap picture this summer as they attempt to shake up what was a moribund roster down the stretch of 2014-15, but Carroll will make around 17 percent of the salary cap the season after, and an even smaller percentage moving forward (depending on how Toronto structures the deal).

It’s the timing that worries.

Carroll turns 29 in July, and though he’s been developing his game year by year since entering the NBA at age 23 with Memphis, it was only in 2014-15 that he didn’t come off as the sort of admirable hard-worker that you’d still prefer to replace with a different starter. His two-way play made him more than a capable starter in his final season with the Hawks, and (again) he was leading the team in playoff scoring prior to going down with that knee injury, but can he continue to do the offensive things necessary (DeMarre averaged 12.6 points per game last year) in order to earn continued starter’s minutes?

Is the knee fine? Will his three-point shooting, sub-par until last season when he shot a stellar 39.5 percent, hold serve? Will that defense, as he enters his 30s, remain stout enough that it could make up for an offensive swoon?

The Raptors are gambling $60 million on Carroll sustaining his play from last season, on a contract that would shock all of us (both because of Carroll’s pre-2014-15 play, and the lack of knowledge about the impending NBA salary cap rise) if we knew it was happening this time last year. He’s now Toronto’s highest-paid player, as the team attempts to change the culture defensively.

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Mike Dunleavy's career could stretch all the way to the year 2018. (Getty Images)
Mike Dunleavy's career could stretch all the way to the year 2018. (Getty Images)

Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s career always sounds about right.

When he signed with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2011? Yeah, sounds about right.

When he signed with the Chicago Bulls in 2013 in an announcement that helped hide the franchise-altering departure of assistant coach Ron Adams? Yep, sounds about right.

Now that he’s agreed to terms with the Bulls again, despite interest from the mighty LeBron James and His Cleveland Cavaliers? Sounds about right.

Dunleavy and Chicago have agreed to a three-year, $14.4 million deal that has a partial guarantee in the third season, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Despite the presence of former lottery pick and front-office favorite Doug McDermott on the Chicago bench, Dunleavy will likely start again at small forward for Chicago, a needed do-it-all and low usage player straight out of central casting.

The veteran will turn 35 in September, but it was necessary that Chicago bring him back. Dunleavy started each of the 63 games he appeared in during 2014-15, and Chicago’s spacing and especially the play of fellow swingman Jimmy Butler were unquestionably altered as he sat with an ankle injury for 19 games midseason. Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau looked like he was chewing on ball bearings each time he had to discuss what he clearly thought was a too-long recovery time for Dunleavy, as he was under pressure from fans and the front office to play McDermott more often.

McDermott was active for half of Dunleavy’s time on the shelf, but played just 7 1/2 minutes spread out over four games in his absence. Chicago went 9-10 with Dunleavy out.

Dunleavy’s points per game dipped to 9.4 last season with more mouths to feed on a deeper Bulls team, but his turnovers dropped and his three-point shooting rose back to over 40 percent. He remains a good rebounder and expert pass-before-the-pass guy – perfect for what is hoped to be new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg’s spacing and movement-heavy offense.

The terms of the deal, as with all things Bulls-y and Mike Dunleavy-um-y, are rather old school.

In years past, observers would likely balk at handing three years to a role player who would be nearly 38 at the end of his contract, which is why the partial guarantee for 2017-18 currently feels like the necessary move for Chicago. The terms of the guarantee have yet to be revealed, but with Dunleavy making only an average of $4.8 million yearly, one would assume that it would involve the Bulls paying Dunleavy $2 million to go away while saving something like $3.5 million.

This year or last, that could mean something. The NBA was set afire on Tuesday night at the news that the projected salary cap might be $2 million more than expected.

Entering the 2017 offseason, though? With a cap expected to hit over $100 million? That couple extra saved million won’t mean a whole heck of a lot in basketball-building terms, though it might mean a lot to the team’s oft-frugal ownership group (we know, the Bulls are paying the luxury tax again in 2015-16, they’ve told anyone who will listen).

The Bulls might even want to guarantee Dunleavy’s deal that summer, even with him showing up to training camp after having just turned 37, just to have him around.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!