Teammates Speak Out: Alex Caruso’s All-Star Caliber Revealed

As the NBA prepares to open All-Star voting next week, the Chicago Bulls are already starting an early campaign for one of their teammates: Alex Caruso.

Bulls News: Alex Caruso Sounds Off After Game-Winning Shot

Caruso isn’t the most obvious bid for an All-Star vote. He’s a defensive specialist who often comes off the bench for one of the lowest-ranked teams in the league. He averages fewer than 10 points per game.

Yet each of his teammates agrees that no one on the Bulls makes a greater impact than Caruso.

Bulls News: Alex Caruso Reacts to Teammate Making History

“He’s everything,” DeMar DeRozan said. “Every team would love a guy like Alex Caruso. He is a guy that can play with every single team in the NBA. The crowd loves him, the intensity that he brings, the excitement that he brings, the competitor that he is — it’s amazing.”

The Bulls know it’ll be an uphill battle to get Caruso any proper consideration for an All-Star vote. The formula for making an All-Star game, which will be played Feb. 18 in Indianapolis, is fairly straightforward: consistent offensive performances draw the most attention, while defensive output serves as more of a complement.

Caruso is a well-known name around the league, but his defensive feats draw a different sort of attention from stars who record massive scoring nights. And when a player’s quality relies on consistent viewing to understand — rather than jumping out on the stat sheet — it’s harder to make a pitch that he’s one of the top 24 stars in the league.

“It’s very tough,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “But when you talk about somebody that can really impact winning and does the things that he does, it’s pretty impressive. He’s smart. He’s shot the ball better, he’s scoring the ball better. I would think that he would be a guy who should be up for consideration for that.”

Alex Caruso Absolutely Deserves an All-Defensive Team Selection, But  History Says it Won't Happen - Bleacher Nation

Caruso’s defensive impact can seem to fly under the radar just by scanning the league leaders in the most obvious categories. He’s not top 25 in the league in blocks and is No. 25 in steals per game (1.3). But Caruso was an effortless selection for last season’s All-Defensive team for a reason.

His league standing is most evident in hustle statistics, where he’s third in the league in deflections per 36 minutes (4.8). And there’s plenty that can’t be communicated in the numbers — like his willingness to pick up players from the 1 to the 5, overcoming size disadvantages through canny positioning and footwork.

Alex Caruso's 3-Point Shot, DeRozan's All-Star Workout, NBA Opening Night,  and Other Bulls Bullets - Bleacher Nation

“He guards all these guys night in and night out,” Donovan said. “He guards Kevin Durant. He was taking Zion (Williamson). He’ll do anything.”

The biggest jump for Caruso this season has been an increased ability to provide for the Bulls in dire moments. He’s 8-for-10 in clutch shooting — and 5-for-6 from 3-point range in the clutch — as he seems to be specializing in buzzer-beaters. And Caruso is the only Bulls player aside from Coby White shooting a higher percentage this season than last, averaging 46.4% from behind the arc.

So is that enough to earn an All-Star bid?

“Hell yeah,” White said. “The way he has been playing this year on both ends of the court, the shots that he’s hit in clutch moments when we needed them the most, the amount of disruption on the defensive end — to me it goes under the radar a lot of the time. He gets a lot of credit for what he does but I don’t think he gets enough.”

The greatest hurdle for Caruso to clear is always his ability to stay on the court.

The guard exited Friday’s win in San Antonio after falling awkwardly on his left ankle, a new injury after he missed three games and left several others early due to a left toe sprain. Caruso did not practice Sunday and will remain questionable for the Monday and Tuesday games against Milwaukee and Denver, although Donovan is hopeful the guard will return this week.

Caruso has improved his availability throughout his tenure with the Bulls, especially after missing 41 games during his first year in Chicago. Whenever he is on the court, his impact — and his team’s praise for it — will be evident.

Let the campaign begin.

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