Last season, Alex Caruso earned the reputation of being the NBA’s advanced stats darling. Even though Caruso wasn’t a star player for the Los Angeles Lakers, he ranked highly in plus-minus (+3.8) and net rating (+9.8), the latter of which he led his team in. Sure, plus-minus and net rating aren’t the most “advanced” stats, but they’re notable.
This season, Caruso’s proving that wasn’t a fluke. Through 16 games this season, Caruso has posted a plus-minus of +6.3 and a net rating of +17.5, the latter of which is once again the highest on the team, in large part due to his defensive rating. Per 100 possessions, the Lakers allow 10.1 fewer points with Caruso on the floor than they do with him on the bench.
Caruso showed how invaluable he can be on the defensive end against the Boston Celtics on Saturday. With the game on the line, Caruso used his speed and quick hands to cut off a pass to Jaylen Brown that likely would have led to an open layup and, eventually, a loss for the Lakers. Instead, the Lakers won and Caruso ended the game with a plus-minus of +14 and a net rating of +34.
After the Lakers’ win, Anthony Davis talked about Caruso’s impact on the team, and why the team is so comfortable with him in the closing lineup.
“He’s a smart player,” Davis said. “Like you said, not the highest paid, doesn’t have all the accolades and credentials, and a lot of people don’t notice him, but he plays the right way. He locks up defensively, makes tough shots, scrappy. I saw a stat, Dudz told me after the Detroit game that in our losses he’s a plus 46 in plus-minus or something like that, which just shows that any time you throw him on the floor he’s always in the plus column in plus-minus.
“He’s playing the right way, he’s affecting the game in a positive way. So for him to be out there in the closing lineup, we fully trust him, and he always comes up and makes big plays just like what you saw tonight at the end of the game.”
The stat that Davis referred to was tweeted out by Sam Quinn of CBS Sports after the game and it honestly doesn’t even seem real.
Stat of the day:— Samuel H. Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) January 28, 2021
Alex Caruso is plus-25 in Lakers losses.
Markieff Morris is plus-24 all season.
The Lakers have won the Alex Caruso minutes in every one of the losses he's been active for. They have been outscored with Caruso on the floor only once all season.
More often than not, there will be players that have better-looking stat lines than Caruso, but make no mistake: Caruso can be just as valuable as the highest-scoring player, and on most nights he is. Fortunately for the Lakers, he’s on their side.