Alex Caruso was not selected in the 2016 NBA Draft and did not get a chance to showcase his skills to a wide audience until the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League in replacement of the injured Lonzo Ball for the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, that one game replacement made all the difference for Caruso as he was immediately picked up by the Lakers to be their first-ever two-way player, a contract style that had been implemented that summer by the league.
With Caruso on a two-way deal for two seasons, the Lakers would get to keep him in the G League, but be able to call him up to the NBA at any time for a certain number of days per season. While Caruso never got a ton of consistent opportunities, he shined in his time with the Lakers and instantly became a fan favorite. He was then signed to a two-year, $5.5 million deal in 2019 NBA free agency.
Caruso recently spoke about the two-way deal with the Lakers, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:
“It’s been the best-case scenario,” Caruso said. “It was exactly what I needed. It was an opportunity for me to do exactly what they laid it out for it: get experience with the NBA but also have the G League to help me continue on the path of developing.”
In addition to this, Caruso said playing for the Lakers is exactly where he wanted to be even if he would’ve been happy just getting a chance to play in the NBA:
“Basketball for me is such a joy. I have so much fun competing with my teammates,” Caruso said. “I love being in L.A. and I want to be a Laker for as long as I can, but at the time when I was in the G League with no two-way, no nothing— whatever team wanted me, whatever role, I [was] ready to go. I lucked out getting this opportunity with this organization, in this city.”
While the two-way deal is far from perfect, the Lakers getting such a slam dunk from their first-ever two-way player shows the ability of their scouting department.
Caruso has carved out a full-time and important role for himself on this championship-contending team with his defense and hustle, and it all goes back to the two-way contract. Without it, who knows where he or the Lakers would be today.