The Chicago Bulls are off to a 4-8 start, and according to reports will make players available for trades. Naturally, fans of playoff teams and title contenders will get excited over the prospect of adding players like Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and to a lesser extent Nikola Vucevic. But Alex Caruso should be at the top of every contender wish list.
Of the Bulls’ top-10 rotation players this season, Caruso is No. 1 in BPM, three points per 100 possessions, better than No. 2 DeRozan. In other words, when he is on the floor the Bulls tend to be better and outscore their opponents.
A Winning Player At A Low Salary
At $9.4 million in salary due this year and $9.8 million partially guaranteed for next year, acquiring him at that price is tantalizing for any of the clubs already at the upper echelon of the salary cap and luxury tax thresholds.
Caruso is an elite defender, made All-Defensive first team last season, and is a career 36 percent three-point shooter. He’s shooting a career-high 44 percent so far this season. He also has championship experience, winning with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020.
Last week the Bulls lost an overtime game to the Phoenix Suns where Caruso’s dogged defense on superstar Kevin Durant, produced turnovers or empty possessions that kept the Bulls close. Following the game, KD gave props to Caruso.
A Star In His Role
“He’s a phenomenal player. I don’t even want to call him a role player,” Durant said. “But just a guy that you can plug with any lineup and he’s going to make the right reads, the right plays on the defensive and offensive side.”
He is a role player, it’s not disrespectful to call him that. He is a star in his role. That’s what playoff teams and contenders need.
On offense you don’t need to run any plays for him. He will move the ball, cut when he doesn’t have the ball and hit the offensive glass.
On defense he will guard the opponent’s best guard or wing player, and he’s switchable. He’ll contest early with high hands, blow up passes with wide hands, and strip any ballhandler who is not tight with their dribble.
All of those traits help you win possessions. In the playoffs it is paramount that the lineups you have on the floor win possessions.
Imagine Caruso on the Philadelphia 76ers, sharing the backcourt with Tyrese Maxey, who is not good defensively. The 76ers need Maxey’s scoring, but can protect him with Caruso, Joel Embiid, De’Anthony Melton and Tobias Harris.
Caruso would fit perfectly in the Golden State Warriors’ read-and-react system, and their defensive versatility would be among the best in the league.
It’s not just about the big names you see on “SportsCenter” every night. Yes, you need players that can fill it up. But there are so many other ways to win possessions besides scoring, and the best teams have players who do both.