Last-chance Warriors trade idea No. 1: Alex Caruso
The Chicago Bulls haven’t indicated they’re going to move Alex Caruso, but if they budge, the Warriors need to be aggressive in their pursuit. Caruso is one of the best defensive players in the league and can cover up many of the Warriors’ deficiencies on the perimeter. An overlooked aspect of the Warriors’ dynasty was they routinely had an elite defense, and this year, they rank 20th with a defensive rating of 117.7.
During the Warriors’ most recent title run in 2021-22, they led the league in defensive rating because they had two elite defenders to build their defense around. Draymond Green was their do-everything stalwart in the front court, and Gary Payton II hounded ball handlers on the perimeter. In the two seasons since, they’ve seen their defense go from elite to average and now average to poor, and the pair’s total games played paints a compelling picture as to why.
Last season, Green played 73 games for the Warriors while Payton only played seven after being reacquired mid-season, and this season, Green has featured in 23 of 47 games compared to 16 for Payton. Unfortunately, the Warriors cannot count on Payton to be healthy, he has eclipsed 30 games played in exactly one season, which makes acquiring Caruso such an enticing proposition because he offers the elite defense of Payton but is a far superior offensive player.
For as great as Payton is on defense, he’s a liability on offense. He’s shooting 28.1 percent on threes this season and is a career 33 percent 3-point shooter. Caruso is by no means a great offensive player, but he’s shooting 40.4 percent from three this season and owns a career 37.4 percent mark from distance.
The Bulls aren’t going to part with Caruso unless they’re presented with an incredible offer. A swap of Gary Payton II and an unprotected first-round pick for Caruso is an excellent trade for the Bulls. It allows them to add a valuable future asset and get a like-for-like replacement for Caruso.
Sometimes the best way to make a trade is to listen to what the other team is really telling you. The Bulls don’t want to trade Caruso because his defense helps them win just enough games to be in the play-in. While Payton is a step down from Caruso, he’s still a game-wrecker on defense and is under team control for the same length. While multiple first-round picks and young players should be the only thing the Bulls are interested in, they simply don’t operate like the rest of the league. The Warriors can offer them what they want and what they need.