Thought of as an LA-area cult hero after his fantastic finish to the 2018-19 season, expectations were high for Alex Caruso heading into the 2019-20 campaign. While the flashy scoring and playmaking that were the calling cards of his late-season run have yet to show their face this year, Caruso is giving the Lakers exceptional minutes on the defensive end and carving out a key role for himself off the bench.
With great size for a guard and the athleticism/strength to cover shifty ball-handlers as well as larger off-ball scorers, Caruso offers the Lakers a versatile defensive threat.
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Lakers Roll out Dangerous & Unique Lineups Thanks to Alex Caruso
Thanks to Caruso’s ability to clamp up on the perimeter, the Lakers have largely been able to have success when they go to small-ball looks. The ability to go small while resting LeBron but still have four elite defenders on the court (Green, Bradley, and Davis as the others) gives the Lakers an extremely dangerous lineup to counter smaller, shooting-centric teams like the Rockets. So far, when the four have shared the court together, they’ve piled up a net rating of +25.
When Caruso does share the court with James, the results have been similarly fantastic. Accumulating a defensive rating of 96.2 while carrying a +11 net rating during their time spent on the court together, Caruso and James have proven to be one of the Lakers’ strongest duos so far. Caruso’s ability to create pressure on opposing guards defensively while being able to defer offensively to his heaps of talented teammates make him an ideal fit for the Lakers in nearly every lineup setting that features James.
Caruso also has a 96.3 defensive rating on the season, the only players with better ratings are Rajon Rondo (15 total minutes) and Kostas Antetokuonmpo (3 minutes) – Caruso has played 167 minutes this season. Caruso’s defensive versatility has already helped open the door for some dangerous lineup combinations for Frank Vogel to toy with, however, if his shots start falling (which we all know it can), he could be in line for an even bigger step up in workload.
Alex Caruso has Defensive Coming Out Party Against Devin Booker
While Caruso has been steadily giving the Lakers solid minutes defensively so far, he shined when tasked with matching up with emerging superstar Devin Booker. Booker is unquestionably one of the game’s premier offensive threats and has been in the midst of the best start to a season in his career. While Booker still put up solid numbers against the Lakers, Caruso was able to routinely make Booker uncomfortable down the stretch and played a huge role in forcing him into a game-high five turnovers.
Caruso’s box score averages of 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game may seem unassuming but he has done an exceptional job of putting his body on the line to draw charges on opposing guards – something he got Booker with twice. A master of doing all the little things that don’t show up in the box score, Caruso’s emergence as a stopper plus Avery Bradley and Danny Green form one of (if not) the deepest defensive backcourts in the league.