Thursday, September 22, 2022

Bulls push for big role changes with Alex Caruso

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The Chicago Bulls were dealt a major blow with the news that starting point guard Lonzo Ball would have a second — and third overall — right knee surgery in the past eight months.

This time, the surgery is to remove damaged cartilage in hopes of relieving the ongoing pain he’s been experiencing during his recovery process.

The ball is rescored 4 to 6 weeks hoping to finalize a new timeline for his return that will almost certainly stretch well into the regular season. That left the Bulls with a conundrum that has monumental implications, not just for how their season starts, but how far they can go in the postseason should they get there.

So who should you target during his ongoing, extended absence?

“When the regular season ended, when it was time to win or go home, Donovan did what most coaches do,” said The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry. “He trusted his veteran. He seated rookie Ayo Dosunmu and started [Alex] Caruso at the head of the guard. It helped the Bulls win Game 2 in Milwaukee and revealed a lot about Donovan’s decision making. Therefore, Caruso must be considered the favorite for the premiere starter instead of Ball.”

The jury appears to be split on whether or not to include Caruso in the starting XI. On the one hand, the Bulls’ net rating was plus 5.3 when he was bottomed with the other starters in the regular season, per Cleaning the Glass.

But her rating was a minus 10.4 with him on the floor in the postseason, although several players were pretty broken by then, including Zach LaVine.

The group Mayberry is pushing for had a net rating of minus 22 in the playoffs.

It’s also about his record. As explained by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Caruso was most effective when he played about 27 minutes. Because of that, Cowley says he remains a better option coming off the bench.

“As obvious as Caruso’s impact is,” Mayberry continues, “he’s still not recognized as a point guard from the start. To his credit, part of that performance is down to his playstyle. His tireless, sometimes reckless commitment does not allow for any starter minutes. He averaged just 1.4 minutes more per game as a starter than he did as a reserve last season – and his body took a beating for all of them.”

Mayberry’s insight shows that just because Caruso could start doesn’t mean he has to endure difficult minutes.

Caruso’s three-point shot (33.3% 3P) and lack of pick and roll ability (0.8 points per possession) are a concern. The Bulls were dead on three-point shot attempts last season and are one of the heaviest users of the pick-and-roll in a league where it features heavily.

Still, Mayberry ultimately concludes that the five-year veteran offers “the most upside and the least downside.”

“The Bulls desperately need Caruso’s defence, intelligence and leadership to set the tone. In a perimeter game, Chicago needs to produce someone who can take on the best wings in the league.”

Even as a starter, Caruso should leave plenty of meat on the bone for another playmaker to stand out. Of the Bulls’ current options, Dosunmu seems best equipped to take on some of Ball’s duties.

But the Bulls are also counting on 36-year-old Goran Dragic. He looked good while playing for Slovenia at the FIBA ​​EuroCup 2022.

Some of the Bulls’ most effective off-ball lineups have been Coby White.

And yet White seemed to be the outsider. This is despite having the most experience in the system, playing more with LaVine, Patrick Williams and Nikola Vucevic than the other options the Bulls have.

But the Bulls are also counting on 36-year-old Goran Dragic. He looked good while playing for Slovenia at the FIBA ​​EuroCup 2022.

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