The Los Angeles Lakers have won their last two games on the back of strong second halves. Alex Caruso has sat through the last two first halves and played in the second. Is there a direct correlation there? Probably! And head coach Frank Vogel has noticed.
When asked after the game about what he’s seen from his third-year point guard, Vogel said it’s stood out how Caruso affects the game (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“He played outstanding, particularly on the defensive end… He’s creating good problems for me because we have a lot of other guys playing well too.”
Um, Frank, this isn’t very difficult. You’re just making it so.
So far this season, only Dwight Howard (27.9) has a greater net rating (how many points the Lakers outscore teams by per 100 possessions while a player is on the floor) than Caruso (18). Technically speaking, Kostas Antetokounmpo is higher with a 28.6 net rating, though he’s only played two minutes. Just wait ‘til his brother is a Laker.
The thing is: We knew Caruso was going to help the Lakers win. He’s pretty obviously the best point guard on the roster when you take defense into account, and does all the things you need from that position alongside LeBron James. Caruso defends his position well, he’s big enough to switch, he can take open threes and finishes at the rim.
While Avery Bradley does some of that and Quinn Cook or Troy Daniels are greater offensive threats, there is value in having a player who thinks like a point guard on the court. Point guards recognize who has the hot hand and know how to get a team into its sets. They think of the game in a different want than other players, and having that kind of mindset on the court is hugely valuable. This is were Caruso (or league-average point guard) stands to help the Lakers.
The only thing stopping him from helping the Lakers from tip on a nightly basis is locker room politics. This needs to change, and if Caruso keeps playing like this, it just might.