With Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan headlining the Chicago Bulls free-agent class this summer, it became easy to forget about Alex Caruso. Jump ahead to the start of the regular season, however, and Caruso might be the one getting the loudest round of applause when he checks into the game (and MVP chants!).
The 27-year-old guard didn’t need even 10 games to cement himself as a fan favorite. While part of that is thanks to his beautiful shiny bald head wrapped in a tight headband, the other part is thanks to his on-court persona and general skillset. After all, the Bulls handed Caruso a four-year, $37 million deal because of his defensive acumen. Few players in the league have been as successful guarding the point of attack as Caruso, and the ball pressure he provides night and night out has been one of the biggest reasons the Bulls defense has significantly exceeded expectations this season.
But what might emphasize Caruso’s impact more than the Bulls’ own 4th-ranked defensive rating is actually the Los Angeles Lakers’ 15th-ranked defense.
Last season, the Lakers were the No. 1 ranked defense in the NBA. The season before that, when they won the NBA title, they held the third-best defense in the league. Of course, there is still plenty of time for LA to find their groove on that end of the floor, but the absence of Caruso is a big talking point around the league, and Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus showed us just how big in his most recent article.
Pincus spoke with several NBA executives about the Lakers’ decision to let Caruso walk this summer, and to say they believe it was a mistake might be an understatement.
“The Lakers boffed that one,” an Eastern Conference executive told Pincus. “I’m not sure what they were thinking.”
Another Eastern Conference executive said he was shocked to see Lakers’ senior advisor Kurt Rambis – who that executive said played a very similar role as Caruso on the Showtime Lakers – not put up a stronger fight to keep the defensive hound. Likewise, a Western Conference executive noted that Caruso was “obviously” a stud defender.
Pincus does a good job outlining some of the financial implications that could have played a role in the decision, but the point remains that LA could have held onto Caruso if they indeed saw him as an irreplaceable piece. Instead, the organization decided they could make life work without him, and they have already started to suffer the consequences.
As for the Bulls, this just feels like another win for the Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley brain trust. The organization clearly had a deal for Caruso ready to send if things fell through with the Lakers. They paid up to the level Los Angeles could not comfortably match, and the franchise is now off to one of its hottest starts in nearly a decade because of it.
I look forward to the Caruso revenge game on November 15th!
U dumb. Thanks for AC.
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) November 9, 2021
Make sure to read Pincus’ full post below:
Latest @BleacherReport Should the Los Angeles Lakers Regret Not Keeping Alex Caruso? – Beyond the obvious yes or no (I give my take), I dive into the logic/frame of reference behind the decision & get some thoughts from people around the league https://t.co/mX8qXfVNa2
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) November 8, 2021