Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan already shook up his beginning lineup this season when he changed Patrick Williams with Torrey Craig after solely 5 video games.
As the Bulls try and claw out of a 3-5 gap, Donovan has thought-about one other personnel query: Should Alex Caruso be beginning as properly?
Caruso has been one of many Bulls’ most constant gamers since he signed with them in 2021. He’s a first-team All-Defensive choice, a poised offensive distributor and a vocal chief who provides as a lot instruction as any coach.
This has been a very robust begin to the season for Caruso, who’s averaging 6.4 factors on 54.3% taking pictures — together with 80% contained in the 3-point arc. He’s averaging 1.4 steals regardless of taking part in solely 22.6 minutes per sport. And when he checks into the sport, the Bulls visibly cool down, a mirrored image of each his poise as a frontrunner and his nullifying impact as a defender.
So why does he come off the bench?
For Caruso, the query isn’t potential or match — it’s staying off the harm report.
“The most important thing with Alex is availability,” Donovan stated. “He helps our team when he’s out there.”
Described as having “no regard for his own personal safety,” Caruso depends on his intuition to place his physique on the road to disrupt opponents.
Over the final two seasons, the Bulls landed on a “sweet spot” for Caruso: Keep his taking part in time beneath half-hour.
Caruso averaged a personal-high 28 minutes per sport in 2021-22, however he additionally missed 41 video games that season due to accidents. Last season Donovan shaved Caruso’s rotations to a mean of 23.5 minutes, and he was accessible for 67 video games.
Donovan thought-about shifting Caruso into the beginning lineup, particularly when the group was trying to find a degree guard within the preseason. But it’s nearly not possible to begin a participant with out taking part in him for a minimum of quarter-hour within the first half.
The Bulls sometimes want to stagger Caruso’s taking part in time to present him extra minutes within the second half. An exception was Monday’s 130-113 victory in opposition to the Utah Jazz, during which Caruso performed 12 minutes within the first half after which logged eight within the second half.
If it’s a selection between beginning or closing with Caruso, Donovan normally will select to have him on the courtroom within the closing minutes.
This is sensible given Caruso’s defensive prowess. Although Caruso might buoy the opening rotation to set a tone within the first quarter, he’s extra vital within the fourth quarter of a detailed sport as a shutdown defender who can neutralize the opponent’s finest scorer.
“I’m not saying he can never (start), but history shows us that if that’s done over a long period of time, it becomes challenging,” Donovan stated. “That’s not to sit there and say that we won’t get into an overtime game where he exceeds (30 minutes). But the totality of his minutes night in and night out, when he starts getting consistently close to 30 minutes a night, that’s when he has difficulty.”
Caruso — who has performed greater than half-hour solely as soon as this season — already has landed on the harm report twice. He tweaked an ankle throughout a preseason follow, which brought on trainers to close him down for the subsequent exhibition sport as a precaution.
And on Saturday in Denver, Caruso crashed to the bottom after colliding with Nuggets ahead Aaron Gordon whereas throwing down a dunk and banged his proper elbow and higher arm in opposition to the hardwood. He performed solely 5 extra minutes in that sport.
Although Caruso stated there’s no structural injury or concern a couple of long-term harm, trainers strapped a scorching pack to his arm each time he exited the courtroom Monday in opposition to the Jazz.
These small knocks replicate the tightrope act required to maintain Caruso accessible with out deterring his type of play.
That doesn’t imply Caruso received’t ever begin a sport this season. But if the Bulls need consistency this season, it means bringing Caruso off the bench — as a way to maintain him on the courtroom in any respect.