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How Dwight Howard and Alex Caruso have sparked energy off the bench for the Lakers

“Look at us. Hey, look at us. Look at us, huh. Who would’ve thought? Not me.” - Dwight Howard to Alex Caruso after their latest big Lakers run, probably.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets - NBA China Games 2019 Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

AC-DH? Thanos and Barnacle Boy? I don’t know, give me time. I’ll eventually find a nickname for Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard, this season’s most fun and effective Lakers bench pairing so far.

But regardless of the nickname, Howard and Caruso have been huge for the Lakers to start the season. Huge enough that we’re seeing Lakers fans cheering at the top of their lungs for Dwight Howard, something no one would have expected as recently as like, four months ago, but Howard has been appreciative of nonetheless.

“It’s great. I think myself and the fans have been through a lot together but just to be back here man, it means a lot,” Howard told reporters after the team’s most recent win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Together, he and Caruso have brought energy to the team when inserted to the lineup, and the stats back that up. When both Dwight and Caruso are in the same lineup, the Lakers have been scoring 109.4 points per 100 possessions, and only giving up 82.8.

That’s obviously been over a small sample size — Caruso has only played in two of the Laker’s three games — but if it continues, it will be hard for Vogel not to give them more minutes.

In the last two games, Dwight has finished with the highest combined plus/minus of any Laker with a +36. He also has had the highest defensive rating of any Laker who’s averaged seven of more minutes a game, with an 81.0 defensive rating (how many points the Lakers allow while he’s on the floor). He’s additionally really protected the paint and altered shots down there, getting a total of 9 blocks in three games this season. He’s been doing exactly what the Lakers have asked of him, and so far, it’s been the perfect pairing.

Caruso hasn’t gotten as much playing time as Howard, but in the times he’s been subbed in in the second half, he’s really given the Lakers a lift. He’s averaging a defensive rating of 86.4 and an offensive rating of 104.3. When Caruso is on the court, the Lakers have a plus/minus of +7.5, only behind Howard and LeBron James. Caruso’s been actively fighting through screens and reading the passing lanes, leading to rave reviews from his head coach.

“He played outstanding, particularly on the defensive end,” Vogel said. “He’s creating good problems for me because we have a lot of other guys playing well too.”

Hopefully this leads to more playing time for Caruso, and not only second-half stints. The team is clearly better when he’s on the court.

The Lakers have had fun combo’s off the bench in the past like Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown, or Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson (totally different I know, but both fun). It’s only been three games so far, but maybe Caruso and Howard can be the next one.

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