Cleveland Cavaliers: 3 ways FA target Alex Caruso would help CLE

Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Alex Caruso, Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso defends on-ball. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

This offseason, it seems apparent that the Cleveland Cavaliers could use a rotational playmaker to aid in easing the burden on Darius Garland, to some extent, Collin Sexton.

Cedi Osman could help Cleveland some as a de facto point forward for spurts I believe, for one, though.

But one would think that the Cavaliers could potentially look to add more supplemental playmaking in the 2021 NBA Draft with a jumbo playmaking presence such as Scottie Barnes, for one. Or in theory, Cleveland could perhaps entertain the likes of Davion Mitchell or as a wing that could help, Franz Wagner.

Nonetheless, for the Cavs, it would be understandable for them to, say if they don’t go with a guard in the draft, of which I probably wouldn’t expect to be the case as much, to look to sign a backup 1/playmaker in free agency.

Cleveland is set to have the roughly $10 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception, but with Dean Wade and Lamar Stevens in mind perhaps with some of that, I’d think Cleveland could look to acquire a potential target with a deal that’s maybe in the $6-7 million range per year.

Players that come to mind in that way, in a general sense, are T.J. McConnell, Alex Caruso, Doug McDermott, Reggie Bullock and maybe restricted free agent Josh Hart, albeit more so if he’s not extended a qualifying offer by the New Orleans Pelicans and is unrestricted. For further context, those players are potential targets, and any possible free agent list “should start” with McConnell and Caruso, who are reportedly Cavs targets, per Chris Fedor of

Fedor noted in his report/mailbag set of responses that some within with the Cavaliers like McConnell and some like Caruso more, and to me, I lean McConnell for Cleveland. And you can view more on him as a logical Cavaliers target here.

That said, if the Cavs were to sign Caruso, I’d get that. Now could Caruso, who made $2.75 million last season, end up looking to return to the Lakers?

One would assume so, yes, as he won a title with them in 2020 in the bubble, but perhaps he could get more compensation from the Cavs, via at least a good chunk of the non-taxpayer MLE, and might look for a change of scenery?

I can’t say for certain either way, but from a Cavaliers’ standpoint, we’ll take a closer look here on how he could aid them.

Here, we’ll touch on three ways that Caruso could help the Cavs.

The first, somewhat similar to McConnell, relates to defense.

#1: How Caruso would help the Cavs defense

The key selling point for Caruso, from my perspective, and I’d think for many, is his defensive abilities. Caruso is a player that can do a nice job against primary playmakers, and does a commendable job deterring drivers from penetrating, which would aid Cleveland in rotational minutes.

Along with that, he has good anticipation to deter pull-up threats, which pays off a fair amount in isolation and his instincts can allow him to recover to shooters to contest.

From there, another notable strength for Caruso on the defensive end is in regards to how he could realistically guard both 1s and 2s effectively for stretches, which could make him viable in spurts/stretches with Darius Garland/Collin Sexton staggered. That, I would assume, would play to those within the Cavaliers that are in favor of him over seemingly McConnell, based on Fedor’s report/comments.

Caruso typically being sound with his positioning would make him a reliable defensive option defending in primary coverage for spurts/stretches against 1s and 2s I’d think, and his 6-foot-4 size aids in that way for spurts, too, as a change from Garland/Sexton.

Plus, with the team sense in mind here, even while I thought playing the Los Angeles Lakers’ strong defense helped Caruso, his team defensive feel is a strong suit regardless. That’d aid Cleveland as well, and his feel for playing passing lanes could enable the Cavs to generate their share of turnovers with him in there, and his threat, similarly to McConnell, would be impactful.

In the past two seasons, when he’s been a rotational contributor for most of the time, he’s had 2.1 and 1.9 steals per-36 minutes, and his weak/strong side feel as a helper has jumped out, leading to his share of takeaways.

So, moving on, the second way Caruso could aid the Cavs has to do with him being able to play some at the 1 and 2 at the other end.