Underrated FA Signing ‘Changing the Culture’ of Bulls Defense

Alex Caruso, Bulls

Getty Alex Caruso, Bulls

Through three games, things have gone pretty much as expected with the Bulls’ two returning stars, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, as with the two big free-agent signings, DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball. Vucevic has been in a shooting slump, but LaVine is averaging 26.7 points, DeRozan is averaging 21.3 and Ball is putting up a stat-stuffing line of 14.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

And yet, the guy who might be making the biggest difference for the Bulls is the one whose acquisition did not draw nearly the attention around the NBA as the Bulls’ other big moves. That would be Alex Caruso, who is leading the league in steals (3.0) and ranks third in deflections (4.7 per game), helping to redefine a Bulls defense that was mediocre last year.

The Bulls have played weak teams to start the year—the Pistons twice and once against the Pelicans—but they’re allowing only 94.0 points per game.

Alex Caruso On Bulls Defense: "I Had 5 Steals TONIGHT…? 😂"Here to bring you all kinds of sports content. I hope everyone enjoys the video and as always, thank you for stopping by and watching! If you would like to see more sports content in the future, then consider subscribing :) Other videos you may be interested in watching Recent Video: youtube.com/watch?v=F6cB9zgNB54 3 Minutes of…2021-10-24T21:50:03Z

“It’s just trying to change the culture,” Caruso said. “Right, you know you can only do that one day at a time, one play at a time, one practice one game.  I thought we did a good job our first game in Detroit, battled and didn’t have our best game. … Defensively, that’s something we are going to have to hang our hats on. Like tonight, some nights we are not going make shots, some nights we are not going shoot great percentages but if we can bring that attitude and intensity every night, we’ll have a good chance to win games.”

Bulls Have Played Elite Defense

The numbers show that the Bulls have been changing the culture.

Chicago ranks fourth in defensive rating, at 93.7 points per 100 possessions allowed. Last year, they were 12th at 111.5 points per 100 possessions allowed. Caruso’s ball-hawking presence has been a big part of that turnaround. The Bulls have forced 19.0 turnovers per game, third in the NBA, and have scored 24.3 points per game off those turnovers. That is also third.

The Bulls have been among the most efficient teams in the fast break this season, scoring an average of 1.25 points per possession in transition, according to NBA.com/stats. That is fourth in the league.

“Just try to be a pest, blow up plays, get deflections,” Caruso said. “Anything to start the break. Because when we’re in transition, you all have seen: We’re really lethal. We got a lot of options.”

Billy Donovan Was High on Caruso Signing

All of this is no surprise to Bulls coach Billy Donovan, who was eager for the Bulls to sign Caruso this summer—largely because of his ability to get deflections and cause some havoc for offenses. But Donovan also banked on Caruso’s aggressive defensive mindset influencing his teammates.

“He sees things before they happen,” Donovan said of Caruso. “He helps guys, he’s got a great voice, he’s usually smart, physically tough. One thing I respect about him, he really holds himself to high standards of accountability, like when he’s making mistakes or not doing things he knows he should be doing out there, he’s the first one that’s on himself about where he has to get better. He is always talking to our group about areas where we have to get better, he’s always thinking about ways to help the group.”

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