Insider Links Bulls Star Alex Caruso to Hated Rival Playoff Contender

Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls

Getty Alex Caruso #6 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during game play.

The Chicago Bulls (19-24) have been under the watchful eye of the New York Knicks, reports NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson and there could be a player seemingly tailor-made for former Bulls and current Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Rivalries look a bit different in today’s NBA than they did during the peak of the Bulls-Knicks rivalry thanks in large part to free agency. But teams are more active in dealing away players too so much so that there isn’t the same resentment for a uniform as there was once perceived to be. And if players did jump, they too became hated by the former fan base.

That is how you end up with two former Bulls players (including favorite son Derrick Rose) and the coach now playing and coaching for the Knicks while, in some instances, being celebrated.

Now, a Bulls team that has not given fans much to cheer about could lose one player that has.

Watchful Knicks Could Eye Alex Caruso

“The defensive-minded guard would be a plug-and-play reserve — and closer — for virtually any contender or team serious about making a playoff push,” Johnson writes taking stock of the Bulls’ trade assets. “The Knicks, who have been scouting the Bulls closely of late, are another team on which to keep an eye.”

Caruso leads the Bulls in net efficiency differential, per Cleaning The Glass, while also ranking fifth on the team in clutch and fourth-quarter minutes. He is averaging 5.4 points on 56.9% true shooting (tying a career-best mark) while adding 3.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals.

Johnson goes on to cite Caruso’s contract as another reason a team may take an interest.

The 28-year-old is under team control for the next two years with only $3 million of the $9.9 million he is set to earn guaranteed, per

“Unless he is packaged as part of a larger deal,” Johnson speculates, “Caruso’s return would likely be a young player and pick because of that contract, his All-Defensive-team-caliber ability to defend at the point of attack and generate deflections and steals, and his playoff experience.”

Caruso is second in the NBA with 143 total deflections which is 10 more than the player in third place – Philadelphia 76ers guard De’Anthony Melton despite the Bulls guard playing two fewer games. They are also 64 more than the next closest Bulls player, big man Nikola Vucevic who has 79 deflections this season.

Alex Caruso Seems Tailor-Made For Tom Thibodeau

Thibodeau is a coaching “grinder” which has resulted in some tough defensive teams and a 6-4 record against the Bulls with the Knicks and 11-5 overall. The current Bulls have been anything but tough for the majority of the season, something that has to stick in Cauroso’s craw.

He rose to prominence with his feisty, high-IQ play on both ends of the floor helping the Los Angeles Lakers win a championship in 2020.

Caruso has made note of the Bulls’ lack of the things he brings individually as a team.

As Johnson notes, Caruso has also been linked to the Golden State Warriors with head coach Steve Kerr even appearing to tell the 6-foot-4, 186-pounder that he would “love to have” him after the Bulls’ 119-111 loss to the Warriors on December 2.

However, there are sure to be more teams mentioned if the Bulls continue to struggle while navigating injuries, questions over on-court chemistry, and increasing doubt in head coach Billy Donovan. All while being restricted from adding salary to the team limiting their ability to improve ahead of the February 9 trade deadline.

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