Editor’s Note: For the second year in a row, the Silver Screen and Roll staff is counting down the most interesting Lakers heading into next season. We will be going through all 20 training camp spots before the season begins, and today we continue with No. 5, Alex Caruso.
Alex Caruso is the best point guard on the Los Angeles Lakers. This is objectively true, and should make for a simple rotation pattern, but as we’ve learned over the last, well, forever, with this organization, simple is just never an option.
Hell, Caruso was probably the second best point guard on the roster the last two years, but Tyler Ennis and then Rajon Rondo kept Lakers fans from finding out what they might actually have beyond the cult hero that Caruso already is.
Such mistakes cannot repeat themselves this year.
In theory, all a point guard playing alongside LeBron James has to do is defend his position, hit open threes and not turn the ball over. Caruso checks those boxes.
Preferably speaking, such a point guard would also be big enough to switch defensively and finish around the basket — especially in transition. These are also things Caruso provides.
Just keep the game simple, let it come to you, and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves as a result of the gravity James creates.
If that isn’t a perfect description of the way Caruso played to end the year last season, then I don’t know what is.
Simply put, Caruso has the makings of a borderline prototypical LeBron James point guard. It’d be nice to be able to say this with a little more confidence, but again, the Lakers don’t do simple.
And so steps in Rondo, who has the cache among other NBA players thanks to his playoff performances and voice in the locker room. What goes ignored, apparently, are the metrics that legitimately scream at the reader that Rondo probably shouldn’t play alongside James at all. By the description of what you need next to LeBron, he shouldn’t play.
Rondo doesn’t space the floor. He’s an absolute sieve on defense. He’d rather pass up a layup to hunt an assist. He’s tiny. Basically, he’s the opposite of Caruso, but his resumé and powerful teammates will demand that he play, and Caruso will have to spend a chunk of the early season proving that he should have all Rondo’s minutes — especially while Frank Vogel does whatever he can to stay on the good side of those who will decide his Lakers future.
Maybe I’m overthinking this, and Caruso will have a chance at legitimately carving out the niche we all think he deserves. Maybe! I sure as hell hope so! I’ve just also been paying attention the last seven years and thus can’t predict such a favorable outcome.
So the Lakers have to hope that Caruso opens the season up so well that he leaves no doubt to anyone who should play the most minutes at point guard this year, even if he doesn’t start. Lakers fans have to hope that as he does so, James, Anthony Davis and even Rondo are paying close enough attention to understand what’s best for the team.
We have to hope that as he fights off Jason Kidd’s attempts at a(nother) coup, Vogel says, “f*ck it,” and decides that if he’s going to go down, he’ll do so playing the guys who give the Lakers their best chance at consistent success.
Because if none of that happens, and Caruso is once again not given a legitimate opportunity to win the role he likely deserves, then James and Davis will have to dominate even further to make up for how poorly we know Rondo will likely play.
Alex Caruso is fascinating as a talent who came from nowhere to potentially play a key role on a title-contending Lakers team. As a storyline by itself, that should be enough to make him one of the most interesting Lakers in recent memory. But it just isn’t that simple, which makes things even more intriguing.
The countdown so far...
5. Alex Caruso