Alex Caruso caused quite the fuss on Twitter on Friday. During the most recent episode of the “Strictly Buckets Podcast,” Lakers sideline reporter Mike Trudell said that he believes Caruso is a more valuable player than LA Clippers guard and three-time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams — particularly on the defensive end:
“I think Caruso is better than Lou Williams, just straight up. Most people are not going to accept that argument, but he is a ton better defensively, like where it’s not even close, and Lou, for him to be effective offensively, he has to have the ball running screen roll the whole time, which means that Paul George and Kawhi don’t have the ball ... I genuinely think a lot of coaches might secretly recognize that.”
While Williams and the dozens of Clippers fans across the country vehemently disagreed with Trudell on Twitter — so much so that Caruso was trending in the United States — Trudell is right. In fact, not only is Caruso better than Williams on the defensive end; he’s better than most guards in the NBA.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Caruso has the fifth-best defensive RAPTOR in the NBA, behind Rudy Gobert, Gorgui Dieng, Jonathan Isaac, Willie Cauley-Stein and tied with Clint Capela. Caruso also has the second-best Defensive Real Plus Minus in the league, according to ESPN.
Is Caruso a better overall player than Williams? It’s debatable, but he’s undoubtedly a better defender, and during an appearance on “The Lowe Post,” Caruso talked about why he thinks his numbers have looked especially good this season:
“I don’t know when it started, maybe in high school. It was something where, like, I’m not as athletic as these guys ... I got called up to varsity my freshman year of high school, and people see me now, and I can jump and I can move, and I look like I’m a little stronger now, but I used to be a scrawny white guy in high school, and I wasn’t dunking like I am now. So I had to figure out ways to affect the game, and that was always something I had a good anticipation for what the flow of the offense was doing, and obviously getting back to this year, we’ve got a great defensive team in general.
“Obviously my numbers are a product of me working hard and me doing something, but it helps when you have Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard out there protecting the rim.”
To Caruso’s point, he’s spent 543 minutes on the court with Howard this season, and 539 minutes with Davis. Davis is ranked second on the team in defensive RAPTOR, and is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Whatever the reason may be, the Lakers have been a better team with Caruso on the court this season, and it has a lot to do with what he’s brought on the defensive end. That being said, he also did this last season.
We’ll see you in Orlando, Lou.