In the final season of his two-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, Alex Caruso again proved his value, turning in the best season of his young career and ultimately becoming one of Frank Vogel’s most reliable options.
Some injury and coronavirus (COVID-19) issues limited Caruso to just 58 games this season, and he averaged 6.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals while his 3-point shooting jumped up to a more than respectable 40.1%.
Of course, Caruso’s impact is something that can not be measured solely through stats and even though he started just six games, he often found himself on the court at the end of games.
Throughout all of the rotation changes that went on for Frank Vogel this season, Caruso seemed to be the only reserve to always find himself with a spot, and for good reason. He was arguably the best perimeter defender on the team as shown by him receiving multiple votes for the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team. He guarded point guards and wings and the difference in shot quality when he was the primary defender was clear.
His improvements offensively were also notable as though he didn’t shoot often, he was far more accurate when letting it fly and also improved as a playmaker. This was often by force, however, as he would be the team’s only playmaking guard available due to injury.
Most importantly, Caruso remained a perfect fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. His high basketball IQ allowed him to almost always find himself in the right position on both ends of the floor and that was invaluable for the Lakers.
When the Lakers needed it most, Caruso was often at his best and that showed itself late in the season. In huge back-to-back contests against the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns, Caruso put forth his highest-scoring games of the season. He finished with 18 points and six rebounds against Portland in a close loss and followed that up with 17 points and eight assists in a win over the Suns.
Just over a week later in the Lakers’ Play-In Tournament game against the Golden State Warriors, it was Caruso again stepping up when they needed it most adding 14 points, three rebounds and three steals.
An unrestricted free agent, Caruso is set to earn the biggest contract of his career in free agency this season. The Lakers will undoubtedly try and bring him back as he is an extremely trusted option of both Vogel and James, but their financial options are limited.
Caruso showed some loyalty previously in re-signing with the Lakers two years ago and he has expressed interest in returning. But if the money and opportunity elsewhere are too much to resist, the Lakers could see their trusted guard take that chance.
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