The Los Angeles Lakers will play two more preseason games — both against the Golden State Warriors — before their regular season opener on Tuesday, Oct. 22 against the LA Clippers at Staples Center. The first of their final two matchups with the Warriors will take place on Wednesday in L.A.
While these exhibition games don’t mean anything in the wins and losses column, there are still a handful of Lakers that would benefit from getting some run before games start to count, including, but not limited to, Alex Caruso.
Going into training camp, there was a hope that Caruso would establish himself as the team’s clear-cut best option at point guard and give head coach Frank Vogel no other option but to start him in favor of the team’s veteran guards like Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo.
While Caruso has managed to make more of an impact in the box score than Bradley and Rondo, it’s not because he’s been substantially better. Through four games in the preseason, Caruso has averaged eight points per game on an abysmal 22.2% shooting overall, despite shooting 41.7% from 3-point range on 5.3 attempts per game.
His box plus-minus (+2.8) is still the fifth-highest on the team, though, because he’s averaged a team-high 5.3 assists per game and 1.5 steals per game. Caruso also still has a better net rating than his competition at point guard because of his defensive rating (91.8). Bradley has posted a better defensive rating (91), but his team-low offensive rating of 77.9 has brought down his overall net rating to -13,
In other words, all Caruso has to do is start hitting his shots to separate himself from the rest of the pack. The only problem is that Vogel hasn’t put him in the best position to do that so far.
Caruso is technically a point guard, but he’s at his best when he’s playing off of the ball. So far, Caruso has been tasked with running the second unit and creating his own offense out of pick-and-roll situations — something he’s not particularly good at.
So far 40 percent of Caruso’s possessions this preseason have come as the pnr ball-handler, which according to synergy and by the eye-test, is an area he has struggled in. He is currently 1-11 on his attempts scoring out of these possessions and continues to get stonewalled.— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) October 14, 2019
In order to maximize Caruso’s potential, Vogel needs to play with him playmakers that can reward his off-ball movement like Rondo or LeBron James. Otherwise, he’s going to continue to struggle offensively, which could hurt his chances of seeing meaningful minutes in the regular season.
Hopefully Caruso starts to show signs of life offensively against the Warriors on Wednesday. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. PST, and will be televised on Spectrum Sportsnet.