Why Alex Caruso will have a huge impact on this new-look OKC Thunder team

Alex Caruso could be an ideal addition to this OKC Thunder team.
Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

With the OKC Thunder adding Alex Caruso via last week's trade, the threat of this team becoming a long-term powerhouse out in the Western Conference becomes even greater.

His defensive skillset is his main draw, but there are so many aspects of his game that made him one of the most sought-after role players in the league this past season.

He slots in seamlessly to what has quickly become one of the best perimeter defensive lineups across the association.

Alex Caruso is an ideal fit for this OKC Thunder team

The Thunder's defensive identity last season was forcing turnovers by playing aggressively on the ball and jumping passing lanes. Oklahoma City led the league in turnovers forced per game 15.7 a night. Caruso is a perfect addition to this style, as his nearly two steals per game last season ranked fourth in the entire NBA.

One of the three guys he trailed was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished with his two steals per game.

Caruso helps unlock other aggressive on-ball defenders such as Lu Dort, Cason Wallace, and Jalen Williams. These players can now afford to take even more risk, for if they pick up fouls they are backed up by so many other great defenders.

A very interesting comparison for Caruso's potential impact is Derrick White of the Boston Celtics, a defensive-minded specialist who can do a bit of everything on both sides of the ball.

White brings so many important traits to the Celtics, including consistency, composure, and intensity. He was often tasked with guarding the opposing team's best player, but he was also very willing to give that role to teammate and defensive ace Jrue Holiday.

The duo of White and Holiday quickly gained a deserved reputation as the most difficult backcourt to break down across the NBA, which led to both players being selected to All-Defensive teams.

It feels Caruso, an All-Defensive player himself, can bring this same partnership with Lu Dort.

Both are annoying guards who are not afraid to be physical, create disruptions, and be relentless. They also have no issue guarding bigger players, and will not bow down from any matchup.

In fact, Caruso averaged an impressive one block per game last season, despite his 6-foot-5 frame.

In terms of reputation, many players have vocally expressed their respect for Caruso and Dort's defense, often highlighting how tough they are to match up against.

While his defense creates so many problems for opponents, he has become a polished offensive player, too.

He shot roughly 41 percent from deep last season on just under five attempts per game. If he can reproduce this hot shooting with the Thunder, he will quickly find himself as either a starter or a major part of the rotation.

Caruso doesn't often step too much outside of his role, with only four games last season with 18 or more points. However, he is a respectable threat who can knock down open threes or make a pass if it's needed. He also turns turnovers into points, a signature of his game.

89 percent of Caruso's three point makes last season were assisted. Also, it's worth noting that 61 percent of his total field goal attempts were from behind the arc, indicating he relies heavily on spot up opportunities, and that's exactly what the Thunder need.

The team already has multiple primary offensive initiators, and Caruso will likely act as a play finisher rather than a play creator.

Derrick White helped the Celtics space the floor and run a five-out offense, leading to a lot of three-point generation. Caruso in the lineup can achieve this for the Thunder, as a five-man slot of Gilgeous-Alexander, Caruso, Dort, Williams, and Holmgren has five long-distance threats on the floor.

Replacing Josh Giddey with Alex Caruso, especially while incoming rookie Nikola Topic is set to sit out for the entirety of 2024-25, comes with some exciting changes.

Firstly, even if he's not contributing offensively or missing shots, Caruso will be able to hold his own on the floor with his active hands and ability to create offense by forcing live turnovers. He is the ultimate plug-and-play guy, as it seems he can mesh with any lineup Mark Daigneault decides to run.

His sheer unwavering effort and mindset should earn him the respect of the coaching staff and teammates quickly. With his capability of locking in defensively, getting a stop, and knocking down an open three, it seems he will often find himself in Oklahoma City's closing lineup.

The acquisition of Derrick White ultimately helped Boston win a title, with his defensive versatility and complimentary shot-making pushing them over the hump. If Caruso can provide anything similar in terms of impact, the Oklahoma City Thunder will become one of the most dangerous teams in the entire league.