Alex Caruso has signed a four-year, $37 million contract with the Chicago Bulls. This sent shockwaves to the Los Angeles Lakers fans who thought the guard was going nowhere. After all, Caruso was an intrinsic part of the Purple and Gold’s 2020 title run. Now, Caruso is set to don the Bulls jersey and join forces with All-Stars Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, as well as new signee Lonzo Ball.
This is a great deal for the Bulls no matter where you look at it. Caruso is definitely worth the contract for the defensive tenacity he brings. We all know the adage: Defense wins championships. And Caruso proved it with the Lakers. Now in Chicago, there’s no question that Caruso will deliver the defensive goods. But the bigger question is: Will it be enough to bring the title back to Windy City?
Let’s walk through three bold predictions for Alex Caruso’s first season with the Chicago Bulls.
Bulls to Move A Few Notches in Defense
The Bulls were actually a decent defensive team last season. They had a 111.5 defensive rating which ranked 11th in the league. Billy Donovan has always prioritized defense in his playbook, as evidenced in his stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In his five-year tenure, the Thunder were part of the top 10 four times. We can say that in the coaching department, the Bulls do not have a problem on the defensive end. However, some players, particularly LaVine, had some shortcomings on this end. Lucky for him, Donovan’s system was good enough to absorb any impact.
Now with Caruso in the fold (as well as Ball), the Bulls have it going on both ends of the system. Caruso has been praised by Lakers coach Frank Vogel and forward LeBron James for his high basketball IQ. Caruso is one of those players whose impact cannot be seen by looking at the numbers. Bulls should expect a similar (if not a new and improved) Caruso. Like any smart player, Caruso will always be there at the right place at the right time, which is the minimum on playing defense. From time to time, he’s going to get those deflections or steals, then lob it up to LaVine.
All-Defensive Team Selection (Finally)
All-Defensive Team selections are always a point of controversy among fans and analysts. Fans, understandably, want their own player to be selected. Meanwhile, analysts who look at other things than the numbers, have their own selections as well. With that said, Alex Caruso has always been one of the favorites by fans and analysts to be included in one of the All-Defensive Teams. Last season, he actually received five votes to be included in the All-Defensive Second Team. Unfortunately for him, LeBron’s continuous praise (which also works as endorsements) didn’t translate to votes.
The 2021-22 NBA season could finally be the year for Caruso. The fact that he even got votes is a good indication that he’s finally getting the recognition that he deserves. This will largely depend on the Bulls’ overall performance. Voters don’t just watch the players individually but rather, how their play helps the whole team.
Make the Playoffs as the Fifth or Sixth Seed
Given the Bulls’ recent offseason moves, they can now be tagged as a serious up-and-coming squad in the Eastern Conference. They squeezed out a 31-41 record last season which is a respectable performance given the series of changes the roster and coaching staff went through. We can say that Donovan was still trying to find and develop the right system that would fit his players. By now, he should have figured things out.
The presence of Caruso should make things a lot easier for Donovan to implement whatever system he has now. Caruso has proven his ability to easily learn and adapt. To recall, he entered the NBA as an undrafted prospect in 2016. From the G League, he worked his way to the Lakers where he steadily rose as a key part of Vogel’s roster. But not all players have had the success that Caruso has achieved. What made Caruso’s journey more difficult is that the Lakers were a contending team. All of their players needed to step up.
We cannot discount the fact that Alex Caruso will bring all the things he learned from Los Angeles to Chicago. Playing alongside LeBron—one of the smartest players in history—no doubt helped propel Caruso’s basketball knowledge on both ends of the floor. At the same time, LBJ expected him to perform—an endeavor in which he succeeded as well. Caruso will enter only his fifth year in the league but we confidently tag him as a veteran. He’ll impart lots of knowledge to the likes of LaVine and Coby White, who can integrate them into their respective games.