Alex Caruso will surprise Chicago Bulls fans this season
The Chicago Bulls pleased a lot of fans this offseason. Between bringing aboard powerhouses in Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan and continuing to speak on their commitment to hold onto Zach LaVine long-term, the front office certainly did what was necessary to position the team for immediate success, heading into the 2021-22 NBA season.
But one summer move that has perhaps flown a bit under the radar was acquiring Alex Caruso.
The 27-year-old Caruso went undrafted in 2016 after averaging 8.0 points, 4.7 assists, and 2.0 steals a game over four years at Texas A&M University. His first touchpoint with the NBA was also not the most glamorous, having joined the Philadelphia 76ers’ Summer League team in 2016, signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and ending up in the NBA G-League via the Thunder’s affiliate squad.
But soon thereafter, Caruso slowly began to make a name for himself.
He joined the Los Angeles Lakers’ Summer League roster in 2017, which resulted in him being signed to a two-way contract after (now ironically) starting in place of an injured Ball, and helping the team win the championship in Las Vegas. This led to an October 19 Lakers debut against the Los Angeles Clippers, a ball club against which he later recorded then-career-highs of 15 points and seven rebounds.
Caruso then went even bigger versus the Clippers in 2018, after signing a second two-way contract with the Lakers. On April 5, he scored a new career-high 32 points and became the only Laker other than LeBron James to have a 30+ point, 10+ rebound, and 5+ assist game that season.
So in July 2019, it was time for a full contract. Caruso signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal and ended up landing himself a shiny championship trophy when the Lakers went 4-2 over the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.
Supposedly, Lakers vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka tried his best to re-sign Caruso, who became an unrestricted free agent this past summer (via Lakers Nation).
“We made an aggressive attempt to re-sign Caruso. You can be in the mix, but players control the ultimate choice and Alex was tremendous here as a championship player and we’ll be forever grateful for his contributions and his growth. Seeing him go from a G League two-way to an elite player was something we’ll always be proud of, but he had choices and he chose another team.”
So what happened? Well, a $37 million, four-year offer from the Bulls, for starters.
Another selling point was likely that after getting rid of guys like Lauri Markkanen and Daniel Theis, the Bulls can absolutely amp up their speed and agility across the board (something that cannot necessarily be said for the Lakers, given Anthony Davis’ hand in the offense, as well as the large-scale veteran presence). Bulls coach Billy Donovan himself admitted so (via NBA.com).
“We are going to have to play faster. I think DeMar and Zach are two players in the open floor and open space who are really, really terrific offensive players. And when you look at the point guard spot, Coby (White) (who is out until November with a shoulder injury) played there last year. Certainly Lonzo, and even Alex Caruso.”
While the Lakers wanted to hold onto Caruso and even LeBron himself is already staking claim on the Texas native’s jersey number, Bulls fans have yet to really show a great deal of excitement over the newest addition.
But they will.
Off the court, Caruso displays a willingness to contribute to the team in whatever way is needed (like steadily come off the bench) and a hunger to keep improving as an individual (with a chip on his shoulder), resulting in him bringing both an impressive work ethic and a winning mentality to Chicago.
And as for on the court? Well, between his athleticism at the rim and general defensive prowess, Caruso is not only a standalone solid option on both ends but is sure to mesh nicely with the likes of Ball, DeRozan, and LaVine.
Plus, what is there not to like about his demeanor?
— Benny (@bennythebull) September 27, 2021
Bulls fans may be predominantly rejoicing over their new so-called Big Three and anxiously awaiting on young talent like Patrick Williams to hit their stride, but it is time they also start appreciating what they have in Caruso: A hardworking, athletic, backup point guard, who has championship experience, yet still also comes with plenty left to prove.
And hey, he might even ditch the headband if asked nicely.
What more could fans ask for from this fresh era of Chicago Bulls basketball?