The Atlanta Hawks (6-5) and Chicago Bulls (4-8) are separated by just 2.5 games in terms of record. But the Hawks sit five slots higher in the Eastern Conference standings and, even with the questions surrounding them, have a far more optimistic outlook than the Bulls at this point.
Chicago is mired in trade rumors with All-Star guard Zach LaVine floating around in hypothetical trades with teams in both conferences. But the Hawks already boast the NBA’s sixth-best offensive rating. It is their defense that (once again) needs help, ranking 21st in the Association this season after ranking 22nd last season.
The continued woes have some pushing for a trade to acquire Bulls guard Alex Caruso.
“If the Bulls do decide to start trading away players, should the Hawks call about Caruso,” wrote Jackson Caudell of All Hawks on November 16. “I am here to argue yes.”
Caruso, 29, is coming off a First-Team All-Defense campaign in 2022-23 and is currently fifth in the NBA in deflections, per NBA.com. He is averaging 8.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists while shooting 44.8% from beyond the arc, his second-highest mark in his career.
“Atlanta does not have a backup point guard currently and while Caruso is not a traditional point guard, he could be an extra ball handler for this team,” Caudell argues. “He would join Bogdan Bogdanovic (who had a great night against the Knicks last night), Saddiq Bey, and Onyeka Okongwu and form what might be the best bench in the NBA.”
Caudell wasn’t alone in his push, either.
“Alex Caruso’s defense coming off the Hawks bench would immediately make this team a hell of a lot better,” @KevinKeneely1 posted on X on November 14.
Caudell proposed a package consisting of seldom-used veteran Patty Mills, the 2024 first-round pick owed to the Hawks by the Sacramento Kings, and one of rookie Kobe Bufkin or second-year wing AJ Griffin who has not yet locked down a consistent spot in the rotation.
Competition and concern for Hawks potentially trading for Bulls’ Alex Caruso
The qualifier of “off the Hawks bench” is an important one. Despite Caruso’s effectiveness – really as a result of it thanks to his aggressive playing style – the Bulls have been reluctant to hand him a full-time starting role, and with good reason. Caruso appeared in a career-high 67 games last season, making 36 starts which was also a career-best mark.
He has only crossed the 60-game barrier once before, appearing in 64 games in 2019-20.
He did make 58 appearances the following season. Still, the decision not to start him has been solely based on keeping him healthy. When he is on the floor, though, his impact is clear.
Caruso’s versatility could unlock some interesting lineup combinations for the Hawks too, with Caruso well-versed at guarding up several spots. He guards players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paolo Banchero to no one’s surprise.
But the same things that make him appealing also threaten the Hawks’ chances of landing him in a trade. First, the Bulls are not looking to move on from Caruso at this time, per NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. Of course, as Hawks fans are well aware, sentiments tend to change when the losses keep piling up
There is presumed widespread interest in Caruso makes a bidding war seem inevitable.
According to Marc Stein of “The Stein Line,” Caruso is “the Bull most teams would want” in a trade.
“If the Bulls decided to make Alex Caruso available, the line of teams chasing him would stretch into double digits,” Stein said on the “thisleague UNCUT” podcast with co-host Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report – who linked Caruso to the Bucks – on November 16
The list of teams that would pursue Caruso is expected to include the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he won a title in 2020. The Milwaukee Bucks and reigning champion Denver Nuggets have also been bandied about as possible trade destinations. But, again, his skill set would fit just about anywhere, including Atlanta.