The Chicago Bulls, barreling towards an imminent rebuild, have four former All-Stars on their roster: DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond. And yet, as trade rumors swirl around the entire roster, it almost seems as though the player that contending teams want most is backup defensive specialist Alex Caruso. According to Yahoo's Jake Fischer, the Bulls have required multiple first-round picks for Caruso in trade talks, and he could possibly net a trade return similar to the one the Portland Trail Blazers got for Jrue Holiday.
Portland sent Holiday to the Boston Celtics for Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams III and two first-round picks. The two situations are not quite analogous. Holiday, earning a max salary, was able to command two valuable players in addition to the draft capital it took to acquire him because matching salary was a necessity. In that sense, Caruso is unlikely to get the Bulls nearly as much simply because his salary is smaller. Matching a $10 million contract is easier than matching a $40 million contract, so the Bulls are unlikely to get two veterans they can later flip in a deal for Caruso.
Of course, that lower salary is part of what makes Caruso so valuable. Very few contenders are capable of sending out $40 million in salary without greatly disturbing their rotation, but almost all of them can acquire Caruso's smaller contract without breaking up their core for this season. Add in the fact that Caruso will be under contract next season at a low number as well and suddenly he looks like one of the best value propositions in the entire league.
Offensively, Holiday is a far better player. Not only can he carry a significant ball-handling load, but he is an above-average 3-point shooter (at least in the regular season). Caruso has shot a respectable 36.9% for his career from deep... but on a minuscule volume of 2.2 attempts per game. Does that low volume reflect a lack of confidence in his shot? Or was it a function of playing on two teams in the Lakers and Bulls that simply did not prioritize 3-pointers? The answer is probably a bit of both. Caruso isn't a marksman, but stick him in the corner and the other team will need to guard him.
To some extent, that is the bar any role player needs to reach in order to be playoff-viable, but Caruso brings a fair bit more to the table on offense all things considered. He is a stellar connective passer, rarely directly making plays for others but cleverly making quick decisions and identifying mismatches his more offensively-inclined teammates create. He's a wonderful cutter and screener as well, and an offense more imaginative than Chicago's will be able to take advantage of that.
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Defensively, Caruso is perhaps Holiday's only equal among guards. They were the two First-Team All-Defense choices last season, and like Holiday, Caruso can guard nearly anyone. The Bulls even let him defend Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2022 playoffs. Winning the championship means defending players like Jamal Murray, Jayson Tatum, Stephen Curry, Anthony Edwards and Damian Lillard. Caruso is one of the only players in the league who can do so reasonably well, and unlike Holiday, most teams can reasonably afford to absorb his salary.
From that perspective, a Holiday-like return makes some sense. He won't be able to draw quite as much player value, but from a pick perspective, contenders will likely treat Caruso as a slightly inferior but far cheaper version of Holiday. Two first-round picks certainly don't seem out of the question, and if Boston's early returns on the Holiday deal are any indication, it will be a price well worth paying.