Alex Caruso hasn’t been the perennial All-Star Lakers fans half-jokingly pegged him to be to start the season — nor has he been a particularly efficient scorer, shooting 25% from the field — but he’s still managed to carve out a role in head coach Frank Vogel’s rotation, in part due to his fit with LeBron James.
This season, the two-man lineup of James and Caruso has posted a +12.3 net rating in the 94 minutes they’ve played together, an improvement from the +9.1 net rating they posted in 147 minutes they played together last season. Additionally, no five-man lineup that has played more than 10 minutes together and featured James and Caruso has posted a negative net rating, according to NBA.com.
Obviously the lineups in which Caruso and James are playing in make a big difference, but the point still stands: They’ve played really well together, and after the Lakers’ win over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, Caruso shared why he thinks they’ve been such a successful pairing.
“We complement each really well,” Caruso said. “Both cerebral players. I kind of understand what he looks for. I got to play with him last year obviously, and we’re starting to pick up our chemistry going into games this year ... We’re just rounding into form.”
Caruso also said that the attention James draws from defenses makes it easy for him to get to the basket, even if his shooting percentages don’t reflect that.
“People guard him and don’t guard me in pick and rolls so I get layups,” Caruso said. “Other than that it’s just reading the game. He draws so much attention, and I’ve talked about it in the past, it’s really just about playing off of other teams’ mistakes. Sometimes when he’s on the court he draws so much attention that the court kind of flows towards him. So just trying to balance that out.”
With the return of Rajon Rondo, some believed that Caruso would take on a smaller role, but it seems as though Vogel likes the pairing of Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso off the bench, and for good reason. While Caruso can handle the ball some, he’s at his best when he’s a secondary ball-handler, so having him on the floor with the likes or Rondo and James maximizes his ability as a cutter.
Caruso definitely has room to grow, but he’s been pretty good so far. Hopefully he starts to look more comfortable on offense as the season progresses so we can get more of these.