Alex Caruso is signing a four-year, $37 million deal with the Chicago Bulls, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Caruso was one of the key role players on the 2020 Lakers championship team but had been underpaid throughout his tenure with the franchise. He spent the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons on two-way deals before signing a two-year, $5.5 million deal to stay in Los Angeles in the 2019 offseason. Caruso indicated after the season that he wanted to stay with the Lakers and continue contending with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
"Any time you're playing with those two you have a chance to win a championship," he said in June. "And I know a lot of people around the league they think they do and going into the season everybody talks about what their goals are and stuff like that. But that's a realistic, attainable goal with those two guys on your team. So that's always in the back of your mind."
Instead, Caruso will join the Bulls, who have had a big day by signing both Caruso and Lonzo Ball. The two are very similar players in that they aren't traditional, ball-handling point guards, but bring shooting and defense to the table. Ball is a strong help defender but doesn't do as well at the point of attack as Caruso, making them strong complements for one another as well as Zach LaVine, who struggles defensively. Caruso shot a career-high 40.1 percent from behind the arc last season, and the Bulls will hope that he repeats that performance.
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The Lakers could have paid Caruso anything up to his max in order to retain him. They had full Bird Rights, but their roster got prohibitively expensive once they acquired Russell Westbrook. With Talen Horton-Tucker a free agent as well and rumors of a possible Dennis Schroder sign-and-trade swirling, the Lakers likely allowed Caruso to walk for fear of racking up an enormous luxury tax bill.
That could come back to haunt them during the season. The Lakers had the NBA's best defense last season, but that relied in part on excellent play by their guards. Those guards are all gone now, and the Lakers will have to reconstruct their defense around their new players. Their loss is Chicago's gain. The Bulls landed one of the best bench players in basketball with this deal, and he should fit in very well with the new backcourt they've built.