The Alex Caruso game.
If you logged on to twitter at any point before the Lakers hit the hardwood to face off against the Kings, but after it was reported that Lonzo Ball would sit out due to a sore groin, you might have seen that thrown out there in part jest. I mean, Caruso is a fine player who showed some good ability playing for OKC’s G-League affiliate last year, but I think even his biggest believers wouldn’t have thought this was coming.
We ? you, @ACFresh21!
The @OKCBlue standout starred for the @Lakers at #NBASummer last night (18p, 9r, 4a, 4s) #GLeagueAlum pic.twitter.com/5CUXgkgYy1
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) July 11, 2017
Okay, maybe some people did see this coming. Or at least thought it was possible. Friend of the site Ben Rosales wrote about Caruso in his summer league preview at Silver Screen & Roll and noted Caruso was a player worth watching in Vegas:
Likely the most interesting player on the Lakers’ summer league roster not drafted by the team or named Dozier, Caruso also probably has the strongest shot of being someone of interest to the parent team moving forward as a capable guard who can run an offense and defend ably. A fairly big combo guard, Caruso played on and off ball during his Texas A&M career and proved capable in both respects, averaging a 32.9 AST% at A&M (25.7 AST% in the D-League) while also improving to 40.1% from behind the arc on three attempts per game as a member of the OKC Blue.
Caruso showed strong feel for the game, a viable jump shot, and competed hard defensively. Late in the game, after David Nwaba executed some tremendous defense in the corner to force a tough pass, Caruso went after a 50/50 ball, couldn’t secure it himself but poked it away from the King who did, then chased down the loose ball and threw a perfect lob to a trailing Travis Wear for a dunk. Of the many highlights Caruso had, that one showed a lot of what he offered to a Lakers squad down most of their top line players.
In a way, Caruso’s game was similar to what Kyle Kuzma showed when Brandon Ingram had to miss time. When given the opportunity, Caruso stepped into the void and showed off a multi-faceted game not many knew he really possessed. Or, at least, one that I didn’t know he had. It’s those types of games that leave a lasting impression; the types of games that help you learn what a player can or can’t do.
I don’t know what Caruso’s future holds with the Lakers, but based on his history as a G-League performer and what he showed in those extended minutes vs. the Kings, I’d happily invite him to training camp and see where things go from there. At the very least, I’d want him for the South Bay Lakers and would strongly consider him for a 2-way contract if he was open to it.
Beyond that, though, I’ll just remember him for this random game against the Kings in summer league. It seriously did end up being the Alex Caruso game, even if that seemed like just a funny riff before the tip.
First! And I think you forgot to mention that this was by far one of the most entertaining Laker games in a long, long time. Seeing our new PG nemesis get torched by Caruso after all the Lonzo talk was almost poetic. The game also just had crazy stages– first it was a blow out, and then it got down to the wire with clutch shots in both directions. What a nutso ride!
Beyond the Alex Caruso show, I really enjoyed watching the way the Lakers played team basketball last night. I don’t know if it is the infectious style of Lonzo, or just a team vibe, but the ball was constantly moving and eventually hit cutting players or wide open shooters. I hope Caruso gets an invite to camp, because he did everything last night.
I’m drinking my shut up juice, I complained that most of the 2nd unit guys didn’t have it , But, After last night, this Caruso kid proved me wrong and deserves consideration and evaluation. Ive been leaning towards Ennis/KCP/Rondo etc.I wonder if this kid might be better?
Tap the brakes, guys. I haven’t seen anything this summer that makes me think the Lakers are more than a 30 win team.
We still don’t know if Lonzo’s game really translates to the NBA. If you watched his two games you’ll see that his defenders go below the screen giving Lonzo 3 to 6 feet of space to take a jumper — they are challenging him to shoot the three and providing help defense on any Laker closer to the basket.
Additionally, on the occasion that Lonzo does drive — at this point he is 100% guaranteed to pass and not shoot. He drives, gets in the air, and then is forced to make an awkward pass out to the wing. Why not take it to the hole? Also, I’ve seen nothing to contradict the criticism that he has no mid range game.
Yes, Lonzo is wonderful in transition, But what percentage of the Lakers possessions will be like that? 25% tops? I’m not sold that this kid is anything special, yet.
It is clear that the Lakers need to surround Lonzo with shooters. Absent DAR the best three point shooter is Lopez. Ingram has potential but statistically, last year, he was awful. Randle has no range, Nance has no range and we have no SG unless you want to give significant playing time to Mr ISO: Jordan Clarkson. Yes Kuzma, all two summer league games of his career, shows promise — but I’d rather not bank on him.
Look, I’m a fan but I’m a realist. The Jim Buss regime was a terrible/horrible mess. They blew a #2 pick (DAR) and nearly cratered the Lakers cap flexibility with Mozgov/Deng. Those are damning mistakes — mistakes that, in a hard cap league, can set a franchise back a decade or more. People don’t realize that the Lakers were pretty far down the path to sustained irrelevancy in the NBA.
I’m all in on Magic/Pelinka but In a loaded West, we are not a playoff team this year.
OK – I’ll bite – how do you figure DAR was a blown pick? Because the new FO shipped him off? Should they have selected Okafor after all? Please don’t say Portzingas unless you can explain why he was a reasonable choice before we all saw what he could do on the big stage. Incidentally, I do credit ‘zingas for helping PJ to a much-needed and well-deserved retirement.
If you’re looking at this as strictly who was the best player available when the Lakers selected #2 then, yes Porzingis was the better choice. There were reports by Kevin Ding, I believe, that stated when the Lakers messed up the Porzingis workout.
Mitch put Porzingis down low and had Mark Madsen beat him up and came away convinced he was not a low post player. Clearly Porzingis is a gifted perimeter player but at the time he did not have enough muscle to compete down low. Maybe it was because the FO was high on Randle (who had not played yet) and didn’t want to draft another PF but for whatever reason they passed on the idea of drafting Porzingis.
Plus,as we have seen from other GM’s there’s no shame in trading down if you can pick up other assets in the process. So the Lakers could have traded the #2 for a lower pick and a player or a future pick. But Mitch wasn’t that type of GM — he was much more linear in his thinking.
So yeah, I will say that whiffing on a #2 pick is a disaster, especially for a Lakers team that was absent talent and more critically devoid of any young anchor to build around.
I think you are underselling DLO. Darius did an article basically showing statistically DLO is just a notch below Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul at this stage of his career. I can question his attitude and knees but, he had been really good.
At draft time I suggested Porzingis or DLO as better choices than Okafor. Virtually everyone wanted Okafor and pretty much everyone considered Randle a future superstar so why pick Porzingis?
Hindsight is 20-20 but I think the past F.O. did pretty well in choosing DLO. I think the current F.O. may regret not pickinng up Butler and Porzingis while given the opportunity especially if George doesn’t come in 2018.
Ugh. Where to begin…to keep it short, you are critiquing a 19 year old as a finished product. Tap the brakes, he’s a prospect and will be on a 4 year development trajectory. His ceiling is high and his current strengths are already elite.
And please stop with the DAR was a blown pick. His numbers his first two years are better than Wiggins and Booker. Higher PER, more rebounds and assists in 12 less mpg, more win shares and RPM in offense and defense.
Back on topic, Caruso reminded me a little bit of Steve Blake. Not just because they are white combo guards, but how they surprisingly play competent D, and nice blend of running the offense while also being a scoring aggressor threat. Guys like York and Blue were cringe worthy. Just iso and shot jacking like they want to be the next Jabari Brown (or Clarkson!).
I mean it’s just one game, and I’m not judging it on statistical output, he just seemed to have the demeanor and it factor and played to his strengths.
Also, where are all the Fox fans? He looks like a Lou Will type player and I’m glad Lakers chose Ball, who will be transcendent.
I think Concerned is saying that #2 picks are normally foundational players for the team that drafted them and not grease used in a trade to dump a bad contract. Signing a 31 year Lopez to an extension is a bad idea so he will be let go next summer. In essence DAR was dumped for cap space. Again, as the OP said bad teams can’t whiff on high lottery picks and expect to get better.
The fact that DAR was moved to clear cap space no more indicates he was a blown pick than giving Moz a rich contract means he is a star.
In other words, maybe – just maybe – both moves were ill advised.
That’s too simplistic and speaks more to your narrative bias, evident by your choice of words such as “dump” or “grease”. The fact that a team took the second worst contract because it included a young foundational piece speaks volumes. That was just the price it took to regain flexibility and the vision of the new regime. Luckily a generational talent like Lonzo was available to soften the blow. This made it possible.
What we may be seeing are the earliest stages of a player development process somewhat like San Antonio–a process in which a player with supposed “Laker style” potential is systematically developed within a nucleus of more advanced players and veterans/stars. Right now, that ultimate veteran star is Magic himself, but he’s hoping to transfer some of that to Lonzo and Ingram, then blend in some star power.
I hope that Magic and Pelinka are not too fixated on who will supply that star power. If Paul George becomes available, he would seem to fit in perfectly. I’d be much less enthused if he were paired with Labron–but maybe that’s just me.
Now, if it were Paul George and Klay Thompson . . . .
More realistically, Paul George and Kevin Love?
Rick in Seattle says
Ray, your last sentence is probably the most realistic. I can easily see Love being the odd man out when the music stops in Cleveland. And he would certainly be a tradeable commodity should George & Lebron choose to come next year, as a package.
Right now, I think the Lakers front office needs to go full throttle to recruit KCP. Just as with Hill, KCP’s skill set (and age) makes too much sense for this team. He is too good a player to not seriously go after. Yes, he will probably ask for a lot of money. He reportedly turned down $16 mil (annual), so its really dicey whether Lakers can get him for their remaining cap of $17. He may want $18-20, in which case, Magic & Pelinka will likely need to move someone.
Deng & Clarkson are the most logical. But is there any real market for Deng at the moment?Probably not. However, there may be teams interested in Clarkson. If you look around the NBA there are teams with expiring contracts that might be willing to trade with the Lakers. There are also teams (like NO) that are short on players who may be interested in a Clarkson deal. Magic & Pelinka appear to have a good grasp on the market, so I would trust their judgement. But, as much as we would like to see Clarkson continue to develop, keeping him instead of a far better player like KCP makes no sense at all–particularly if it opens up additional cap space. .
Magic is a good businessman. He knows that sentimentality is not a good business practice.
There are ways that he can generate the money to sign KCP– if Magic truly believes that KCP is the right fit that he appears to be.
I like the current roster but have to admit that Clarkson would be expendable in the interest of improving the team. So are several other players. If a 1-year $18-20 deal is required for KCP, then do it. What’s the alternative, let him sign with Brooklyn??
Magic, you can do it. Give him your best sales pitch…..
Rick in Seattle says
CONGRADULATIONS and thank you Magic for pulling this off. I really think we will see KCP become a damn good addition to this young Lakers core. Last year, the Lakers ranked 30th in defense. Between Lonzo, KCP, Nwaba & Lopex, defense should be much improved.
As predicted earlier (above) the KCP signing has exceeded the team’s available cap space. Some adjustments to the roster will be needed. Hard to predict what moves the FO makes. Easiest contract to move may be Brewer. As soon as they sign KCP, they will be over the cap, and will lose the $4.3 mil house exemption (according to some cap experts).
They still need a backup PG (Rondo?). Nwaba is playing well enough to make the final roster. Sign Caruso & Bryant to two-way contracts and keep them in the G-league.
Once they add the veteran PG, this roster is set. .
I am pumped…. KCP was a huge signing…
Looks like you spoke it into existence. KCP signs with Lakers, 1 year for $18M. Now the Lakers will probably look at moving Clarkson or Brewer or someone.
Talk about increased passing last year was nice but its really hard to execute when Young and Williams are the shooting guards. Yesterday’s game was fun with all the ball movement and then Blue played extended minutes in the second half. All of a sudden the ball was not moving around and neither were the players. Everyone stood around behind the 3 point line and watched what Blue would do. He did hit some big shots to close the game especially when he stopped trying to force his shots and waited for the ball to come to him.
Caruso’s off hand passing impressed me the most. He threw a bullet from the top of the key to a player under the basket. I would like to see him paired with Ball to see what they could do together on offense and defense.
In the second half I do agree – we saw too much Blue. The lack of ball movement was much of the reason for us losing that big lead. Granted, the rookies didn’t know how to protect a lead, but when a couple of shots didn’t drop, why then Blue was there to take up the slack and change the game. Also, Caruso admitted he tired in the 3rd qtr – lack of any experience playing that many minutes.
Guys played their hearts out, you could see they were exhausted in the 4th. but held on. Caruso reminds me of Steve Blake, why not bring him to camp and see what he can do? Wouldn’t cost much, might be a good backup. You’ll get max effort out of him, and he can shoot. That was certainly entertaining last night, I turned it on just to check it out, ended up watching the whole thing.
Please, no Westbook. Talented as he is, don’t enjoy his game at all.
A Horse With No Name says
dx: Great comp Caruso/Blake. Blake was a pretty solid defender; not sure Caruso can be the same. But he’s super gritty and has excellent skills. Agree with all above that he deserves a camp invite.
Concerned: I share your c-whatever-about Lonzo, but what I want to believe now that he is our player, is that he’s a kid who can really grow and overcome his weaknesses, most of which are related to physical maturity and development. I expect him to remedy his skill deficiencies over time. He’s very coordinated with great reflexes and timing that you cannot teach, plus he’s a hard worker by all accounts. I gotta bet on that.
Clay Bertrand says
I was Really Super Hyped for this game. Then came the news about Ball being out. So I was then just hyped to see Kuzma with a bigger role. Then came the news Kuzma was out. Damn!!! At that point when I turned on the game and saw the starting line up I was no longer hyped about ANYTHING. I basically just wanted to see if Zubac could get his game going and what Thomas Bryant could provide.
I actually thought, “Great. Caruso!?!??!??!……this guy is a 3rd tier Euro player bound for the Bulgarian Second Division. Who wants to watch this line up!?!??!?!”
Then I watched the game and after awhile it was, “Pass it to Caruso Damn it!!!!”
The team play was a very pleasant surprise. The Kings had all their Summer League worthy players available and a bunch of G league guys out hustled them.
A meaningless game on so many levels but still it was nice to see a sense of teamwork scrappiness.
A Horse With No Name says
Darius: yes and yes to your tweet. That’s 5+ more wins and worth more than that in having NBA ready players to help our young roster develop. Takes pressure off Lonzo too–’cause he ain’t ready for big minutes yet.
Old Timer says
Is there a room for Caruso in 1 (nice name as a hoopster not a singer)? Is there a room for Bryant in 5? Supposing youth are overwhelmed and can’t advance in talented Western Conference, do Lakers have insurance in winning from Vets? There is a possibility that PG fall in love w/ OKC and no more Go West Young Man bec/ Lakers are non competitive tho lively and entertaining! James want to move to a team that has the highest chances of winning probably OkC, Rockets, Spurs and possibly Twolves. Tactical advantage for the Lakers, Who among these teams can unload their player roster quick to accommodate stars who will be available in 2018? These are the lingering questions to and fro in the minds of Magic/Rob on how to secure the future? Should they sign Bryant, Caruso, KCP or Rondo in a crowded roster?
My answer to all these questions- take a calculated move in signing Rondo, sign Caruso and Bryant in G league as a form of insurance to be used later like the Nwaba Project. Lakers need defensive minded individuals and maturity in managing leads or closing the game, precisely why they are still considering Vets KCP or Rondo.
With players like Caruso on the bench, I don’t know why we have to keep hearing about major free agent guards like Hill and Rondo that the Lakers “almost” signed. Much like Nwaba, this guy plays like he wants to be on the team.
Invite Caruso to training camp and let him play preseason ball along with young Bryant and let’s see what we have for a team against the next level of competition? It appears the Lakers can pencil in Kuzma, Hart, Lonzo, Caruso and Bryant…who knows about Vander Blue…he’s still an almost in my book?
Caruso would seem to be in the lead for a two-way contract,hope he can keep up the good play.Just like Nwaba last year,sometimes a player can make a big jump in his early 20`s and take advantage when given a chance.
Now that was a surprisingly enjoyable game. I too see a better-than-Blake in Caruso, and would also like to see him get an shot at making this team.
This season is turning out to be full of surprises, and fortunately they’re good ones !
Clay Bertrand says
I admit I was totally wrong on the KCP signing. I’m curious to see how it all came together. Its really a possible win win. I hope his 3 and D works and Lonzo can make him some money in his next contract. Who knows. It COULD end up being with the Lakers.
They spent it all on kentavious fill out everything else on the cheap
KCP happening according to ESPN. 1 year $18m.
Old Timer says
ESPN reports KCP signed w/ Lakers for 18m
3 Ingram/Kuzma/ Brewer
In my opinion Zu and Deng are out place. Wish there is room for Caruso, Bryant, Robinson and Black for players minimum.
Caruso will probably be one of the two-way contracts. Bryant probably makes the roster. Not sure about Ennis, with all these rumors about Rondo still floating around. No room for Black and Robinson.
Old Timer says
Thanks Anon. Still love the signing of KCP on the last day of trading. No teams have the money to get KCP to 3 years and GH to Celtics and Bradley to Piston made this p/up possible.
KCP! Great deal
According to ESPN the Lakers are still trying to sign Rondo. I’d look to trade Clarkson for a trade exception to gain the cap space to sign Rondo and possibly use the exception later in another deal. They actually have to do something as they gave Caldwell-Pope slightly more than their available cap space.
Rick in Seattle says
Vasheed, Chicago still has a $15.3 mil exception left over from the Butler deal. That would be more than enough to send Clarkson to Chicago, if both teams were interested.