When the Los Angeles Lakers re-signed Alex Caruso this past summer, the hope from fans was that Caruso’s cutting, 3-point shooting and defense would stand out on a star-studded team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
While the offense hasn’t been there for Caruso early on, the defense that earned him a spot on the 2015-16 SEC All-Defensive team at Texas A&M has been, and that’s made a fan out of Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.
After practice on Saturday, Vogel had high praise for Caruso, calling the 25-year-old a “star defender.”
“I think he’s elite,” Vogel said. “When you study him on tape or just watch him in summer workouts, you see he has pretty good feet and good length. But there are a lot of 6’5 defenders that you think you should be great defenders, but they’re not good defenders — but Alex is. He has great instincts and that’s the biggest thing with him.
“It’s not always just about physical ability: It’s about IQ, it’s about activity, hands, containment ability, willingness to take charges, the ability to mix it up and get on the boards and rebound the basketball. He does all those things at a very high level.”
Vogel’s right. Not only is Caruso ranked first on the Lakers in defensive rating, with the team giving up only 96.3 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor. Caruso is also ranked third among all guards that have played at least 15 minutes per game and 15 games. Only Donte DiVincenzo (92.8) and Emmanuel Mudiay (95.9) rank higher.
Defensive rating isn’t the be-all, end-all metric for defense, but it helps when it matches up with the “eye test.” If Caruso can start making an impact on offense, too, he’ll be in the conversation for the most valuable defensive guard on the team. When you consider Danny Green is also on the roster, that’s huge for the Lakers.