On May 9, 2023, the NBA all-defensive teams were made public on the NBA’s official twitter. The Bulls’ own Alex Caruso was able to make that list. Here’s the post below:
Unlike the other players shown, Caruso is a less flashy player. But he has been getting the job done for years.
Before the Lakers
Many NBA fans know of Caruso from his Lakers days. But many likely don’t know that he had a somewhat interesting way of making it there.
Surprisingly, Caruso went undrafted in 2016 and joined the G-League’s Oklahoma City Blue. Over the course of the 2016-17 G-League season, he played 50 games.
NBA G-League Stats shows that he averaged 11.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 5.2 assists on 46% from the field and 74.9% from the line.
Again, Caruso didn’t have the flashiest stats. But what seemed to peak the Lakers’ interest in him was his defense.
Specifically, in that G-League season, he had a great defensive rating of 98.6. For reference, StatMuse shows that Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the best defenders in the NBA today, had a defensive rating of 107.7. Essentially, the Lakers saw potential in Caruso to be not only be a good NBA defender but a great one. Therefore, Caruso received a two-way contract and made his NBA debut on Oct. 19, 2017.
Caruso’s Lakers Years
After that debut, Caruso would later go spend a total of 4 years with the LA Lakers. StatMuse displayed that he maintained a great defensive rating throughout those years.
Specifically, by the end of each season, his defensive rating was:
-108.9 in the 2017-18 season
-110.4 in the 2018-19 season
-106.2 in the 2019-20 season
-106.4 in the 2020-21 season
Fortunately, the Lakers’ assumptions of Caruso’s defense were accurate. As shown by the stats above, he kept that defensive intensity the instant he stepped into the NBA.
He even helped the Lakers win a championship in the 2020 bubble.
The only issue that he had with his game was his offense. But, after a while, that began to develop decently.
For instance, there was a major difference between his rookie and sophomore offensive stats.
In the 2017-18 season, Basketball Reference displays that he averaged 3.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. His percentages included 43.1% from the field and 70.0% from the line.
In the 2018-19 season, he averaged 9.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. His percentages included 44.5% from the field and 79.7% from the line. Of course, he was also playing in the Laker’s G-League team the South Bay Lakers, too.
In the 2017-18 season, NBA G-League stats displays that he averaged 19.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. He shot 49.9% from the field and 82.4% from the line.
In the 2018-19 season, he averaged 14.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. He shot 41.0% from the field and 81.0% from the line.
Essentially, through his experience from both the NBA and the G-League, Caruso grew as a player. His defense remained elite, but his offense evolved from below average to average.
He did experience a slight drop offensively the next Lakers’ season. But it still was better than his rookie numbers.
By his final Lakers season in 2020-21, he averaged 6.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He shot 43.6% from the field and 64.5% from the line.
Besides the hiccup in free throw shooting, Caruso’s offense, while not elite, was good enough to make him a threat, a big one on some nights.
It looked like he would stay with a team, at least, a little while longer. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
After the 2020-21 season, Caruso was a free agent looking to re-sign or find new scenery. The Lakers and Caruso couldn’t agree on a contract, so he chose the latter.
Thus, he found himself a new home in a different city across the country: Chicago.
Caruso’s Bulls Years So Far
On Aug. 10, 2021, Caruso signed a four-year $37 million deal with the Bulls.
Unfortunately, his first season was inconsistent offensively.
In the 2021-22 season, Proballers shows that he averaged 7.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. He shot 39.7% from the field and 79.5% from the line.
In addition to that, he also dealt with a fractured wrist that required surgery. Due to that injury, he missed significant time and played 41 out of the 82 NBA games.
Despite those struggles, his defense never wavered when he was on the court.
StatMuse displayed that his defensive rating during that year was 111.5. The worst in comparison to other years, but still great none the less.
The 2022-23 season was much more of a success.
Foxsports shows that he:
-led the team in steals (with 1.5 per game)
-was 3rd in blocks per game (with 0.7)
-was 2nd in defensive rating (with 119.6)
He also, didn’t deal with major injuries and was much more consistent offensively. All of that and more is why Caruso was named All-Defensive First Team.
Thus, making Caruso one of the most important parts of this Bulls roster.
Why He’s Important
Although defense may not be appealing to some, it is an essential part of NBA basketball. It also seems that, in the current NBA landscape, defense can be seen as an afterthought.
Many of the leading guards today aren’t all horrible defenders. In fact, most are okay, which isn’t enough if they want to lead their team to significant victories.
That’s why guards like Caruso are so important. Defense can’t be taught so to have someone who is willing to work his best to stop/slow down the other team’s best player is crucial.
Players like Caruso can encourage the rest of the team to play well defensively, too. They give the rest of the team energy to hustle and try their best to win.
All in all, regardless of their losing record, Alex Caruso is not only a significant player on the Chicago Bulls but one of the best defenders in the NBA.
Stay tuned for more NBA content, including midseason moves, contract updates, and more pieces about every team.
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