Alex Caruso started out as a cult following-type player for the Los Angeles Lakers since the 2017-18 NBA season.
His high-flying dunks and highlight-reel plays just seemed out of place coming from a player of his stature and appearance, and it led to him becoming a quick fan favorite in Los Angeles.
However, during the 2019-20 season, Caruso has become much more than that. He’s become a full-fledged rotation player and someone capable of making a difference every time he’s on the court.
Caruso is one of just four players in the NBA to average over one steal a game in under 20 minutes and also improves the team’s defensive rating by 9.3 points every time he plays. While there are definitely haters who believe he’s unworthy of his sixth place in the 2020 NBA All-Star voting, there’s no doubting the impact he’s had on the Lakers.
Because of this, Caruso has garnered a number of fun nicknames, but the best of these likely comes from James. What started as a joke became James’ everyday nickname for Caruso, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times:
“Every time I see him and say, ‘Hey, Bron,’ he just calls me G.O.A.T.,” Caruso said with a laugh. “The first couple times it kind of threw me off. Now it’s just an everyday thing.”
James spoke about Caruso and what he brings to the Lakers and had nothing but positive things to say. James is one of the most intelligent players of all time, and he clearly sees the value that Caruso has on the team every time he’s on the court:
“Every time he’s in the game, he’s a plus guy. He can do so much. He can defend at a high level. He’s very smart. He’s very tough. To have him on this ball club is a luxury.”
Caruso is the perfect defensive complement to any offensive-minded point guard the Lakers can play. For example, in the 11 minutes per game that Caruso shares the court with Rajon Rondo, the Lakers have an offensive rating of 111.4, a defensive rating of 97.0, and a net rating of 14.4. These numbers would rank seventh, first, and first in the NBA, respectively.
Caruso has definitely earned the following he has, but to see that he receives the praise he does from James is just further proof of his impact. Being a role player on a James-led team is historically tough, but Caruso has fit the mold perfectly.