Off to a 9-14 record to start the season, the Chicago Bulls have run into their fair share of bumps in the road. Trade rumors, locker room feuds, and a power struggle between Chicago's star player and head coach have tainted the early goings of what was once a hopeful season. Fortunately, the tides may finally be turning, as the Bulls have strung out four consecutive wins thanks in large part to the efforts of Alex Caruso.
After earning All-Defensive First Team honors last year, Caruso has returned better than ever for his third season in the Windy City. Through the Bulls' first 23 games, Caruso is maintaining averages of 9.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 53.6% from the field and 46.4% from three-point range. These numbers don't typically warrant All-Star attention, but Caruso might just be the exception here.
Already arguably the NBA's best perimeter defender, the development of Caruso's three-point shot underneath the Bulls' newly-hired shooting coach Peter Patton has taken his game to a whole new level. This has some calling for Caruso's name to be tossed into the All-Star ring. It may sound like a ridiculous notion at first, given his lack of raw statistical production, but it's difficult to deny that Caruso has had an All-Star-level impact here with the Bulls this season.
The data supports that claim as well, as Caruso is known to be an advanced analytics darling. After posting the NBA's second-best Defensive BPM last season, he is once again in the top 15 for DBPM through 20 games. We've seen a massive leap in his offensive production, however, jumping from 175th in OBPM last year (out of 190 qualified players) to 57th this time around (out of 198).
Caruso has been particularly productive in the clutch, stifling opponents on defense and even hitting big shots when necessary. In fact, Mike Beuoy's weighted averages to measure the Jerry West Clutch Player of the Year award have Caruso substantially outperforming every other player in the league in the clutch so far this season.
The Bulls may have a bonafide All-Star on their hands with Alex Caruso.
Caruso has already drawn a great deal of support, both internally and externally, to receive credit for his on-court impact by naming him to the 2024 NBA All-Star Game in Indiana. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan sang Caruso's praises in a recent interview with the press, "For me, he should definitely be considered into the All-Star Game."
Billy wasn't the only one to advocate for Caruso, however, as his backcourt partner rallied the troops in his honor. "Alex Caruso All-Star 2024," laughed Coby White, "[DeMar] you got to say it, start it off." DeMar DeRozan returned in kind by reflecting the sentiment, proving just how valuable Caruso has been to this team.
If Caruso wants to continue strengthening his claim, it would help if the Bulls could continue to win and hopefully reposition themselves as playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference. Currently on a four-game win streak, the Bulls aren't going to get things easy any time soon, with a daunting six-game schedule ahead that includes contests against the Bucks, Nuggets, Heat (twice), 76ers, and Lakers.
It would also help if Caruso could slightly juice up his box score production, just enough to get back into the double-digit figures as a scorer. His hyper-efficiency has propped him up thus far, but he'll need to be more assertive if he wants to secure a star-level payday in the future. Hopefully, Caruso will be available to return from an ankle injury sustained on Friday soon, so he can put these concerns to rest once and for all.