The Phoenix Suns are edging closer to having their full compliment of star players out on the court together for the first time this season, in a development that cannot come soon enough. This team finds itself 4-6, with plenty of reasons to have a mild amount of panic about this group.
The return of Devin Booker is going to help head coach Frank Vogel a lot – and with two winnable games against the Utah Jazz on the horizon – the opportunity is there to add some wins to their record. Then again, this is a franchise that has lost to the San Antonio Spurs twice at home.
The Suns could do with some help in the backcourt and the perfect player for them may be about to become available, if only they had the pieces to get him.
That player would be Alex Caruso, one of the best role players in the entire league, who currently plays for the Chicago Bulls. There have been increased rumblings that the Bulls are about to blow it up, which in theory would make their own core three players of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic available at the right price.
Not that the Suns should have any interest in those guys. They couldn’t trade for any of them anyway, and Vucevic is the only one of the three who makes any sort of sense from a fit standpoint. Then again, he is a known quantity who has been exposed in the postseason by elite centers, much like current starting Suns big, Jusuf Nurkic.
Caruso on the other hand ticks every box the Suns could hope for in a backup guard. He is capable of handling the ball, which would take some of the pressure off Booker. As of this moment he is the team’s starting point guard and has Jordan Goodwin and Saben Lee behind him in the depth chart.
The brief stints we’ve seen of Booker controlling the team have been great, but that is also not his natural role. Having somebody of the calibre of Caruso to come in and make some plays while switching Booker to his natural two-guard spot would be ideal. It could also be implemented both when Bradley Beal is on the bench, or if he is injured, which he has been a lot to start the season.
On top of that, Caruso is one of the best defensive players in the entire league, and somebody who exists seamlessly in the flow of whatever offensive scheme you insert him into. He won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2020 next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and has been integral to the Bulls in his three seasons with the organization.
Sadly for the Suns however, Caruso is no hidden gem. If the Bulls make him available, there will be a long line of teams enquiring about his services. It is likely that they would want some combination of young players and picks in order to let him go. Two kinds of assets that the Suns are light on.
A couple of second round picks and some combination of Bol Bol, Chimezie Metu and Goodwin just isn’t going to get it done. Neither is Nassir Little or even Keita Bates-Diop – who certainly has a role with this Suns roster and who has played well in spots so far this season – but who is just nowhere near as good as Caruso.
The two players have similar skillsets, and it makes zero sense for the Bulls to take a player back who does a lot of what Caruso does, just not as well. It would be different if Bates-Diop’s ceiling was higher and the Suns wanted to upgrade now and trade away a player who in future tracks to be really good.
It would also be different if the Suns could attach picks to go with a couple of players who are not as good as Caruso. But they don’t have another first round pick this decade, and Caruso is going to command at least one of those from elsewhere. Think of what head coach Frank Vogel, himself a high-level defensive mind, could have done with a player of Caruso’s talents as well.
He would have solved all of the Suns’ problems and made them better in a crowded Western Conference. Instead he is likely to go to another direct competitor of the Suns, and in doing so help another team to get better. Caruso is capable of guarding any one of Booker, Beal and even Kevin Durant. That will be priceless to another franchise out there.