Alex Caruso

Alex Caruso Impact for the Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder made its first big move of the offseason, sending Josh Giddey to the Chicago Bulls for veteran Alex Caruso. This isn’t the first time that the Thunder made a splash trade during the NBA offseason.

Alex Caruso Impact for the Oklahoma City Thunder


Trade Details

Thursday (June 20) was the first big move since the season ended and it was between the OKC Thunder and the Chicago Bulls, swapping Josh Giddey and Alex Caruso in a one-for-one trade. No picks were attached.

The writing had been on the wall for months. The 21-year-old dealt with off-the-court issues, a changing role, an awkward fit in the starting lineup, and was moved to the bench in the second round against the Dallas Mavericks. It was clear both he and the organization were moving in different directions, and splitting up was going to be mutually beneficial.

With Giddey needing the ball in his hands a significant amount to provide offensive value, it didn’t make sense alongside a superstar guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The MVP candidate is the focal point of the offense, alongside the ascension of Jalen Williams, and Giddey’s inability to shoot the three at an effective rate or provide anything on defense didn’t allow him to flourish. It’s possible he can do that in Chicago, but he wasn’t going to be maximized in Oklahoma City.

Alex Caruso Impact

Now Caruso fit on the other hand? Perfect next to the “Big Three” as he is a low-usage, elite-level defender.

Caruso is a 30-year-old veteran guard who’s the ultimate utility player and is coming off a season where he shot 40% from behind the arc on nearly five attempts per game and received an All-Defensive Second Team selection. That alone is the reason why just about every contending team wanted him.

Caruso is a three-and-D type of player that can be inserted into any lineup and make an impact. With the Thunder’s plan to run a five-out system of offense that also prioritizes versatile defenders, he makes a lot more sense for the Thunder. The Thunder already has elite defenders in Chet Holmgren, Lu Dort, and Cason Wallace. The Thunder were a top-five defense this past season and they are now getting one of the best perimeter defenders in the league which could get scary.

If the pairing goes as well as it should next season, the Thunder have the option to extend the guard up to a four-year, $80 million extension (according to Adrian Wojnarowski). It’d be a fair price tag (especially with the salary cap bound to increase soon) and more than likely less than what Giddey would’ve demanded, which is important due to the impending extensions of Holmgren and Williams.

The Thunder received the data they needed during the recent postseason. Acquiring Caruso is a win-now move. Every championship team needs a player like him, we recently saw the 2024 NBA Champs the Boston Celtics make win-now moves (Derrick White, Jrue Holiday, and Kristaps Porzingis). It doesn’t matter if he comes off the bench or starts, Caruso will be a pivotal piece and make an instant impact wherever he plays.

The Thunder are officially in win-now mode and got a great return in a championship-level role player in Caruso. Caruso solves a lot of the issues that the Thunder had during the playoffs, and it allows Giddey to get more primary reps on the ball and a fresh start with a new organization.

Return to Oklahoma City

Here’s a bit of history, the Thunder signed Caruso as an undrafted free agent back in 2016, where he spent one season with the Blue. The head coach at the time? Mark Daigneault.

There’s certainly formality from both sides and now Caruso is back where he began his NBA career. The Thunder have pursued Caruso for quite a while and now the veteran is back in Oklahoma City ready to contend for a championship.

Main Image: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

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