Every team in the NBA could use a player like Alex Caruso. And many of them have the assets to make a deal for him. That should drive competition for one of the best role players in the league.
Caruso is arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA. He was recognized as such by being named to the All-Defensive First Team last season. He was the no. 2 defender in the league based on my own top 100 rankings due to his versatility, lockdown one-on-one ability, communication, and ridiculously high feel.
That defensive skill, along with solid career 37 percent shooting from deep (albeit on low volume) and a reasonable $9.5 million salary this season along with a partially guaranteed $9.9 million next year makes Caruso an easy fit and an extremely valuable player.
Caruso has been in the rumor mill for a while now due to the Bulls’ mediocrity. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports had mentioned rumblings of the Bulls seeking two future first-round picks for Caruso on his podcast during last year’s trade deadline.
With the Bulls sinking and Zach LaVine purportedly available for trade, Caruso is the player who could end up getting moved and shifting the landscape of the league more than his more heralded teammate.
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Caruso’s not a star, but he is that good of a defender. Here are the most likely landing spots for Caruso, and what teams have to offer for him.
Why it makes sense
The Sixers received two draft picks and a ton of expiring salary back in the James Harden trade with the idea that they could use them to get a star player. They could go for a guy like Zach LaVine, but Caruso would make more sense.
The Sixers have shown that they are already a really good team. And they could add another great player like OG Anunoby in free agency this summer if they keep their books relatively clean. They’re one of very few (if any) good teams with projected cap space to add a max guy this summer. Caruso’s reasonable salary would allow them to keep their options open.
Caruso would also fit in very nicely next to Tyrese Maxey. He could take the tougher assignments, leaving Maxey to carry the offensive burden. Caruso and Joel Embiid would be a killer defensive tandem, boosting what is already a solid no. 10 defense in the league.
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The Sixers have a couple of expiring contracts that could serve as salary matching for the Bulls. Furkan Korkmaz is leading the league in unfulfilled trade demands and has never missed a shot inside the United Center. His $5.3 million number could be combined with Danuel House’s expiring $4.3 million in order to get to Caruso’s number.
The Bulls would want the Clippers’ 2028 unprotected first-round pick that they received as part of the James Harden trade. All of their stars will have aged out of their roster, so that pick has awesome upside to be near the top of the draft.
The Sixers also have a 2026 pick to trade that is heavily protected and will likely end up near the back of the first round.
The expiring salary filler of Korkmaz, House, and that 2028 first-round pick would be a nice haul. The Sixers could also throw in one of their talented young players who haven’t been able to break into the rotation such as KJ Martin or Jaden Springer.
Why it makes sense
The Mavs are better than most people expected, at 8-3 after their first 11 games. But their defense is a major problem, as it was last year. They’re ranked 26th through Tuesday’s games and finished 25th last season. Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic aren’t stopping anyone.
Caruso would for sure bolster that defense and spread the floor for their two offensive stars. The Mavs are starting his former teammate Derrick Jones Jr., and Caruso could fill that role better.