How Good Was Joe Barry Carroll, the Centerpiece of the Trade That Brought Robert Parish and Kevin McHale to the Boston Celtics?

The Boston Celtics made perhaps the best trade in franchise history just before the 1980 NBA Draft. Team president and general manager Red Auerbach orchestrated a franchise-altering move that brought future Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to Boston.

In return, the Celtics surrendered the No.1 pick in the draft as the centerpiece of the deal. Golden State pounced on Purdue’s seven-foot center Joe Barry Carroll. Just how good was the big man that most people expected to be the No. 1 selection?

Joe Barry Carroll was the prized possession coming out of college

Joe Barry Carroll of the Golden State Warriors controls the ball while guarded by Bill Cartwright of the New York Knicks during an NBA basketball game circa 1980 at Madison Square Garden. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

Carroll dominated play as a two-way star in college. He still owns school records for rebounds and blocks in his Purdue career. His 2,175 career points rank him second on the all-time list.

The Warriors held the third overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft and had their sights set on Carroll, who many expected to be the top pick. The Celtics owned that coveted No. 1 selection. Auerbach put together a trade with Golden State, packaging the top pick and their 13th pick in exchange for the third pick and Parish. Golden State took Carroll with the first selection. They grabbed Rickey Brown at No. 13.

Parish played four seasons with the Warriors and just came off a season where he averaged 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds. With that third pick, the Celtics grabbed McHale, paving the way for a dominant frontcourt that owned the 1980s.

Parish and McHale teamed with Larry Bird, who earned Rookie of the Year honors the previous season. In their first year together, they claimed their first of three championships in the decade. The Celtics topped the Houston Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals.

After a two-year absence from the championship round, the Celtics returned in 1984. They knocked off the rival Los Angeles Lakers and began a stretch of four straight NBA Finals appearances. The Celtics won their final championship of the ’80s in 1986, defeating the Rockets.

Parish and McHale both made their way into the Hall of Fame.

How good was Carroll?

While Parish and McHale reached the pinnacle of their pro careers with Hall enshrinement, Carroll was no slouch. As a rookie with the Warriors, he put up Parish-like numbers, averaging 18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds.

Carroll’s numbers only got better the next few seasons. In his third NBA season, Carroll averaged a career-high 24.1 points and also grabbed 8.7 rebounds. He also racked up 2.0 blocks per game. Amazingly, he wasn’t an NBA All-Star selection that year.

After four strong years with the Warriors, he stunned many by leaving the NBA and going overseas to play in Italy. While playing for Simac Milano, Caroll led his team to the Italian League championship.

He returned to the Warriors after one year in Italy. For the next two seasons, he averaged 21.2 points. In his first year back, he also added 8.5 rebounds but still didn’t earn All-Star honors. During his second year back, he put up 7.3 rebounds and made his first and only All-Star appearance.

In December 1987, Carroll and Eric “Sleepy” Floyd were traded to the Houston Rockets in a deal involving Ralph Sampson. His production dropped once he left the Warriors. He played for four teams in three years after leaving Golden State.

During his seven seasons with the Warriors, Carroll averaged 20.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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