Frank Vogel: Alex Caruso ‘Vital’ To Lakers’ Championship Hopes
Alex Caruso
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso went from G League standout to two-way fan favorite all the way to regular rotation player in just a couple of years.

This is due to his high basketball IQ and hustle, two things that are greatly appreciated by Lakers coach Frank Vogel. In his first season being a true rotation piece, Caruso has more than proven that he belongs in this league.

Him and LeBron James have a unique chemistry that has led them to being the NBA’s most effective duo when determined by net rating. Vogel has clearly taken notice, as Caruso has steadily increased his role and — in the absence of Rajon Rondo — has become the Lakers primary bench point guard.

“Alex is a vital piece to our championship aspirations. That’s the simplest way to put it,” Vogel said. “He’s just so well-rounded and excels in so many different areas, that he’s kind of a jack of all trades and has really proved to be invaluable to what we’re trying to accomplish. His playmaking has been one of those things.

“He can run the point and obviously look to make plays when touching the paint. He’s just someone that I trust with the basketball in his hands, and he impacts the game in many other ways as well.”

Without James, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard and Kyle Kuzma, it was Caruso who took over being the team’s primary player in the Lakers’ final scrimmage. He put up 17 points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals in just 24 minutes of play.

While Caruso’s popularity among fans mainly started because of athletic dunks and his stature, it was quickly realized that L.A. had found themselves a gem. While his jump shot and ball-handling ability could use some work, Caruso is nearing elite in many other phases of the game.

Without Avery Bradley, he is probably the Lakers best defender for opposing point guards. And being without Rondo until at least the second round of the playoffs will force him to improve as a ball handler, which should only enhance his already solid passing.

LeBron & Caruso connection

James is fully aware of the fact that he and Caruso have the highest net rating of any two man combination in the NBA. He also seems to know exactly why the two have formed such a formidable pairing.

“Just playing the game the right way. Very cerebral basketball players. We’re making winning plays — both of us,” James said earlier this season.

“We work well together and every minute we’re on the floor, we’re just trying to make it productive. Trying to be in the plus and not the minus. It’s a great combination for our ball club.”

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