The Los Angeles Lakers are bringing back restricted free agent point guard Alex Caruso, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Free agent guard Alex Caruso has agreed to a one-year deal to return to the Lakers, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 6, 2019
According to Wojnarowski, Caruso’s deal will be two years and worth $5.5 million, and it appears the team will be using cap room to sign him, rather than any salary exceptions:
Doesn't look like Caruso + Cook are paid within the Lakers' room exception, at least on reported numbers, so for projections keeping McGee as the room. Using cap for the C&C— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 6, 2019
Caruso spent the last two years on two-way contracts for the Lakers, making a pro-rated NBA wage while with the team, but only receiving a G League salary while in the minor leagues. After two season in which he showed that he can contribute at the NBA level when called upon, Caruso is finally being rewarded for his efforts financially.
Now, Caruso will have the opportunity to fight for the starting spot with Quinn Cook and Rajon Rondo. While Caruso isn’t the shooter Cook is or playmaker Rondo is, he does a little bit of everything well.
However, the one thing he does better than both Cook and Rondo is defend. Last season with the Lakers, Caruso posted a defensive rating of 102, which was the highest defensive rating of anyone to appear in at least 20 games for Los Angeles. Surprisingly, Isaac Bonga had the highest defensive rating, but it’s worth noting that he only averaged 5.5 minutes per game. Caruso, on the other hand, averaged 21.2 minutes per game in 25 appearances, including four starts.
Meanwhile, Rondo posted a team-low defensive rating of 113.3. Granted, defensive rating isn’t the end-all-be-all defensive stat, but it’s consistent with the defensive effort fans saw from the 33-year-old point guard last season.
Rondo will probably still start the season at point guard due to his strong relationship with his teammates LeBron James, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, but if he continues to regress on the defensive end, it wouldn’t be surprising to see head coach Frank Vogel move Caruso into the starting lineup midway through the season.