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Bulls News: Alex Caruso Joins Lonzo Ball in CHI on 4-Year, $37M Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (4) dribbles down court in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, April 10, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)
Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

Alex Caruso has agreed to a four-year, $37 million deal with the Chicago Bulls, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski

The 6'4" guard continued to be a valuable member of the Los Angeles Lakers rotation in 2020-21. He averaged 6.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 21.0 minutes on the floor. He also shot 40.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Caruso's presence was felt most on defense.

Per NBA.com, the Lakers' defensive rating climbed from 101.7 to 107.8 when he went to the bench. He held opponents to 42.8 percent shooting, including 53.5 percent inside 10 feet. The 27-year-old was a solid perimeter defender and stuck with guards as they drove toward the basket.

NBA @NBA

Alex Caruso hustles back for the @Lakers CHASEDOWN SWAT! πŸ‘ https://t.co/0JD9YGJVFG

His 2.6 percent steal rate was also best on the team, according to Basketball Reference.

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Alex Caruso all by himself πŸ’₯πŸ’₯ @ACFresh21 x #NBAAllStar (πŸ“Ί: @SpectrumSN) https://t.co/c0Rhz8P3PM

In May, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel argued that Caruso deserved All-Defensive team recognition.

"I think it has to be worth mentioning that he has to be considered for an All-Defensive Team with the way he does everything on that side of the ball," he told reporters. "To see him dominate on the defensive end, and take control of our offense and play on both sides just proves his value to us."

For a number of reasons, Caruso initially became a cult hero among basketball fans, and it overshadowed what he was actually doing on the court. He showed he was more than that as the Lakers went on to beat the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.

This past season, the Texas A&M product continued to show why he's such an integral piece to a team with championship aspirations. He's a solid shooter and playmaker who can hold his own on defense. Those players are vital to filling out a roster built around one or more stars at the top.

The danger for the Lakers was that their overall success and Caruso's performance meant he merited a nice pay raise from his $2.8 million salary in 2020-21. Assuming Dennis Schroder is part of Los Angeles' long-term plans, another team could promise him a larger role than he was likely to occupy for the 17-time champions as well.

The impact of losing Caruso shouldn't be understated. 

While the Lakers' title window isn't slamming shut, LeBron James' high ankle sprain was a reminder he's still human and will eventually decline. The front office can't allow the franchise to take a step backward and effectively waste what's left of his time in L.A.

Pelinka entered this offseason with his hands tied in terms of making outside additions, thus putting a premium on the players already on the roster. Nowhere was this felt more than with Schroder. As much as the German guard struggled in the playoffs, the Lakers couldn't simply go out and find an equal replacement on the open market in the event he left.

Caruso's departure will be felt in the City of Angels.

It's doubtful a larger breakthrough, like the one Jerami Grant enjoyed with the Detroit Pistons, is on the horizon for Caruso. Having already reached the pinnacle in terms of team achievements, his move to Chicago might prove to be a better showcase of his individual skill.