Alex Caruso has been a fan favorite since arriving in Chicago, primarily due to his quirky appearance and scrappy play style. Chicagoans have always clung to the ‘underdog’ story and especially appreciate tenacious and passionate players—Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, and now Alex Caruso, to name a few. Going by many names, the ‘Bald Eagle,’ ‘Alex Carushow,’ and ‘AC,’ he might soon be called something more prestigious than ever before, Defensive Player of the Year. Not only has he been one of the most impressive defenders on the Chicago Bulls, but also in the entire NBA. He’d be the first Bull to do so since Joakim Noah in 2014.
Bulls fans are already well aware, but it’s time to put the league on notice to one of the best defenders in the Association. Caruso ranks seventh in the NBA in steals per game while only playing 24 minutes per game, being one of only three players in the top 20 to average less than 30 minutes a game. He sits ninth in the league in total steals despite missing six games to injury. The Bald Eagle also leads all shooting guards in blocks per game, despite playing 11 fewer minutes per contest than the next two on the list. While defensive statistics at face value are difficult to interpret, there’s no confusion about how good he’s been on that end of the floor.
Head and shoulders above the competition, Caruso continues to stack monstrous numbers. As a team, the Bulls’ defensive rating is 110.7 with Caruso on the floor, good for fourth in the NBA. Without him, they drop to 116.8, plummeting the team’s standing to the bottom four. Individually, he leads the NBA in deflections per 36 minutes and has the most steals of anyone in the last four games. During the 2022-23′ campaign, in defensive EPM or Estimated Plus-Minus, Caruso ranks as the best guard in the league and also stands first in 538’s Defensive Raptor ratings among all qualifying players.
Amid Rumors, His Defense Will Keep Him In Chicago
Starting when the Golden State Warriors head coach and ex-Chicago Bull Steve Kerr said that he’d “love to have” Alex Caruso after a matchup in December, the rumor mill has run rampant with landing spots for the 28-year-old shooting guard. With none of them gaining much traction, it would seem Chicago’s front office has shut down any speculation before the deadline.
“According to a source, Alex Caruso could be the one untouchable just because of how valuable he is defensively.”Joe Cowley of Chicago Sun-Times
With the team’s defensive statistic differences alone, it’s clear why the Bulls want to hang onto the former Aggie. With the recent return to stardom of the Windy City’s ‘Big Three,’ they’ll need all the help they can get in the second half of the season to make a postseason push, and Caruso will play a pivotal role. He’s got the highest plus/minus on the team and is nearly doubling the next man on the list. Battling with injuries this offseason and early this year, he seems to be finding his groove again.
While awarding a guard the Defensive Player of the Year award is rare, and before Marcus Smart won last year hadn’t been done since Gary Payton in 1996, Caruso makes a case that is hard to dismiss. Making one of the most significant impacts on the game, both on the ball and for the team, he deserves a spot on the First Team All-Defense at the minimum and has a real shot at the individual honor. The only thing left to prove is staying healthy and dragging the Chicago Bulls back to playoff contention with his stifling defense.