Building a championship roster isn’t easy (obviously). First, you need a super-duper-star. Then, you likely need another star or two. After that, the final thing to do is build on the fringes.
Let’s take a look at the most recent NBA champs, the Milwaukee Bucks, for example. They have their super-duper-star in Giannis Antetokounmpo. They have an All-Star in Khris Middleton and an All-Star-level guy in Jrue Holiday. But there were a couple more guys who made large contributions to their successful title chase. Without Pat Connaughton knocking down shots and grabbing rebounds or Bobby Portis bringing his energy, it’s quite possible Phoenix would be on top of the league right now.
That brings us to Alex Caruso. He’s one of those fringe-level supporting cast guys who can make a difference on a title team. Heck, he’s already done it.
Caruso will be an unrestricted free agent this season. It’s hard to imagine the Lakers not bringing him back, but if there isn’t mutual interest, or if they’re unable to come to terms on a deal, Caruso would make a lot of Mavericks fans extremely happy.
After four nice seasons with the Lakers, Caruso is likely going to be looking at the biggest contract of his career. He’s about to get paid, and he’s earned it,
The biggest thing Caruso has going for him is his effort. If he’s on the court, nobody is going to work harder than him. He’s an absolute pest on the ball. He’s a solid team defender. He dives for every loose ball. He sacrifices his body for the betterment of the team. He’s unselfish. He basically does all of the little things that don’t always get you notoriety.
Caruso isn’t the most skilled player. He’s not going to shake and bake himself into pull-up threes. He’s not going to razzle and dazzle. But he can do some valuable things on the offensive end. His jumper isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, and he doesn’t shoot a high volume of threes, but they go in at a decent clip (37.7 percent for his career). He also crashes the glass, is athletic enough to throw down ferocious jams, and can finish around the rim a little bit.
Caruso the jack of all trades, master of none. Unless you count working hard as a skill because he is a master at that.
Caruso’s weaknesses are exactly what you would expect for someone in his price range. The biggest one? He’s not going to be the guy who the Mavs can give the ball when they need a bucket. But that’s not who the Mavs would need him to be. He’s not going to be in the salary range where you expect that level of offensive play.
I mentioned Caruso’s jumper earlier when talking about his strengths. Interestingly, you could also look at his jumper as a weakness. Yes, the ball has gone in at a decent clip over the course of his short career, but the low volume could indicate that a dip in efficiency could be around the corner. He’s never attempted more than 2.4 long balls per game, so it’s not like he’s a certified sniper.
Talking about Caruso’s jumper as a weakness after he shot 40.1 percent last season is probably nitpicking, but that’s what you have to do with a guy like Caruso. He truly doesn’t have a lot of holes in his game, especially when playing within his role.
Fit with the Mavericks
Caruso is a picture-perfect match with the Mavericks. They need a guy who’s an animal on defense, never takes a possession off, crashes the glass, can handle the ball, and won’t mind taking a backseat on offense. That is Alex Caruso.
After playing with LeBron James (and helping the Lakers win a title), it’s clear Caruso is a guy who contributes to winning at the highest level.
With no Josh Richardson on the roster anymore, the Mavs need a guy who can hound opposing ball handlers — someone to bother the Kyrie Irving’s of the world. Then, unlike Josh Richardson, Caruso isn’t a zero on offense.
At the very least, Caruso is a guy who makes you better every time he’s on the court. He’s also an incredibly fun guy to cheer for and a fan favorite across the entire NBA landscape. If he ended up on the Mavericks, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the second-highest selling Mavs jersey behind Luka.
Caruso is the opposite of a guy like Kristaps Porzingis. Instead of having a few elite skills, Caruso is pretty good at literally everything. His fit is perfect.