Just last season, if a coach referred to Alex Caruso as a great two-way player, it wouldn’t have felt like it was doing proper service to what he could offer the organization. Now, when Frank Vogel compliments him using that verbiage, it’s on terms Los Angeles Lakers fans have been waiting for since they first saw Caruso in action.
Before the Lakers went into San Antonio and handily beat the Spurs, Vogel was asked what Caruso brought to the table, and as has become his custom, Vogel offered up some effusive praise (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“(Caruso)’s one of our best perimeter defenders. He has great containment ability, great length to get deflections, can execute our interior switches the way that we want because he has size and physicality to sink into big guys legs and what not, takes charges.
“He really impacts the game on that end of the floor. He provides another ball handler for us offensively and is able to knock down weak-side threes. He’s one of our more valuable two-way players.”
Vogel went on to praise Caruso’s dashing good looks, impeccable comedic timing and blossoming personality, but as this piece is focused more on Caruso’s impact on the basketball court, we’ll just paraphrase that stuff and move along.
(Note: He didn’t actually, but most of that stuff goes without saying at this point anyway)
Everything Vogel says about Caruso’s defense is on point, and of players who have gotten legitimate minutes, the defense is still never better than when Caruso is on the court (they’re giving up 97.4 points per 100 possessions during that time). We’re nearing 300 minutes of time that Caruso has played, so the sample size is nearing the point where these trends become legitimized.
Unfortunately, the shooting Caruso showed at the end of last season has kind of fallen by the wayside. On the season, he’s shooting just a shade over 40% from the floor and only 28.6% from three-point range. Obviously, no one really expected he’d shoot anywhere near the 48% from deep he did last year, but it’s certainly at least somewhat disappointing that he’s fallen this far off from that clip.
So long as Caruso defends the way he has, though, there will be a spot in the rotation for him. Should the shooting turn around, he’d become the perfect point guard pairing on a LeBron James team and the 19.5 minutes per game he’s been playing will really feel like too few.
Still, given where the Lakers found Caruso, just about anything he offers will feel like playing with house money. It doesn’t happen often where an undrafted guy who spent as much time in the G-League comes up and legitimately helps a title contender (if not title favorite). But here we are with Caruso, and Vogel’s praise is all warranted.