With Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma all missing Monday’s game against the Kings, it was hard to picture the Lakers winning a game against the Kings, a loaded team with NBA players like De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. The Lakers played the underdog role in this game with only Zubac and Nwaba being NBA players.
They needed players to step up in a huge way – and that is exactly what happened. Vander Blue led the Lakers with 21 points with Thomas Bryant contributing 10 points, even Travis Wear being productive with 11 points. The Lakers caught on fire from 3 point range early on and ended the first half with a 18 point, and at one point leading by 28, lead due to the whole team playing well. But, there was one player that stood out from the rest.
That man would be the man, the myth, the legend: Alex Caruso. He had shown flashes for small stints, but he appeared to be more of a player destined to be in the G-League. This performance now appears to have likely let Caruso get a camp invite. Alex scored 18 points and it was bundled with 9 assists and 4 rebounds. On defense he showed some good versatility and the ability to make plays, even with limited athleticism, since he acquired 4 steals and managed to get a block.
For a fringe NBA player, this performance was amazing and it is definitely something that can propel him to get an NBA contract. He kicked his play into the next gear as he was also setting up other players because of the attention that he was getting at times.
Caruso came out of nowhere and put on a great performance. It is still only Summer League, but a lot of things that Caruso showed things that should translate to the NBA; like a good looking form, a solid motor on defense, and good ball movement instincts with some aggressiveness to balance the passes.
There is a ton of intrigue in him now and even if he doesn’t get invited to camp or make an NBA roster, he still has this great memory where, for at least a couple of days, he is a Summer League cult hero. It was so great and fun, I am going to break it down to illustrate the awesomeness that Caruso put on display.
Early on in the game, the defenders were going under screens and Caruso made them pay. His shot has a relatively high release point and it is an easy shot that should translate to the NBA. This shot was one that would go on to set for the night and it showed his potential to be a floor spacer. The defense would start to play him more to score than to pass, which was an element that the Lakers lacked a bit with Lonzo:
I was totally expecting for Alex Caruso to take off his mask and reveal that Lonzo made this pass. It was a really good pass that, like Lonzo does, put his teammate in the best position to succeed. This pass lead Nwaba straight to the rim and allowed him to lay it up easily. Nwaba is also a good cutter so that helps too:
Winning plays is a term I don’t like to use. These are what I call high motor type plays. Caruso shows some good hands here and he also dives to poke the ball to his teammate. A play like this is made at any level and the motor appears to be good, something he will need to become a reliable backup down the line:
Players like Caruso just need a bit of confidence and then they start shooting up some tough shots. Buddy did a good shot closing out on the shot, but Caruso showed an ability to pull up over the defender without hesitation. This shot makes him very intriguing as a floor spacer that can come off the bench and add shooting to the guard spot. Shots like this also allowed for pick and roll success:
Ball movement is very key in this new version Lakers. The passing has already started to become infectious (shoutout to Lonzo) and it was very evident on this play. Caruso got the ball and had his feet ready to catch and shoot, but he swung it back to Blue and have him a great look at a 3 point shot. I swear Lonzo has done this before:
Nwaba showed some impressive vision on this play. He knew that Buddy was going to step up and it was going to leave Buddy’s man (Caruso) open for the 3 point shot. The shot looks very clean without a lot of moving parts. He was able to square up and flick up an easy shot. If he can continue to shoot the ball this way, his floor spacing ability makes him that much more valuable:
This was really bad pick and roll defense. Both the guard and the big came at Caruso (likely because he was playing so well) and that left pop big open for the 3 point shot. Alex made a money pocket pass and Wear now had a good looking attempt. His shooting early on made the defense play him more than the popping big which led to good read that demonstrate his good vision:
Caruso drew 2 defenders again on the pick and roll which allowed for Zubac to roll and throw up a little floater. This is what aggressiveness can create when running pick and rolls. Caruso does a nice job of drawing both of them here and making the good read:
Another great example 0f Caruso possessing a good motor here as he is able to poke the ball out of the hands of Buddy Hield and save it from going out by diving and risking his head in the process. This kind of effort level is defiantly going to catch the eye of Magic or some NBA team out there:
This play was so ridiculously fun and it showed what was expected from this Summer League team. The defense was completely focused on Caruso and the threat of him scoring that players were left ridiculously open. Travis Wear pops out to the 3 point line and everyone just crashes on the dribble drive by Alex. He then throws a really nifty over-the-head pass that gives Wear so much time to get the shot off. Alex wasn’t done because Travis missed and guess who got the tip in?:
Nwaba is going to be so fun with Lonzo. It isn’t hard to envision Lonzo making this pass. Alex will do it for now. He sees Nwaba cut while the defense sleeps and he hits him in stride. It was a beautiful drop off pass that really showed the vision and playmaking ability. He showed so much stuff, but this pass was definitely him trying to impress:
With Sacramento coming roaring back, Caruso had to do something to protect the lead so he decides to run a pick and pop with Travis Wear, but he doesn’t wanna wait for the screen since he has other things do like:
Alex Caruso said he couldn’t count the messages on his phone because so many Lakers fans were commenting on his instagram
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) July 11, 2017
So he instead splits the pick and roll (my favorite thing ever). He attacks the rim and goes right at the defender and finishes over him. It was so amazing and it captures the madness that is Alex Caruso: