Alex Caruso was a four-year college player at Texas A&M before going undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft. He would ultimately get the chance to start out his NBA career in the G League with the Oklahoma City Blue.
Just four years later, Caruso has an NBA Championship under his belt and is playing full-time in the NBA. While there are a handful of G League success stories like this around the league, it is still pretty rare.
Caruso recently joined JJ Reddick on The Old Man And The Three podcast and discussed his time in the G League. He gave some valuable insight into the disconnect between what players try to do in order to get promoted to the NBA versus what they should be doing.
“That’s a big reason that guys get stuck in the G League is that they don’t understand the position they are trying out for. It’s like going to a job interview and thinking you’re gonna be the CFO of the company and they’re looking for a guy to clean the bathrooms […] Guys in the G League try to average 25 points a game. They’ve got guys they’re paying $30 million a year to score 25 points a game. It’s
a self-awarenessof understanding what you’re good at and what teams need and trying to do that.”
This is great perspective from the 26-year-old who made it on an NBA roster without being flashy or trying to do too much. Caruso would go on to reveal that he got advice from Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti early in his career that gave him this perspective.
“A really big, important timestamp in my career: Sam Presti traveled with our OKC G League team to Sioux Falls […] he gave us about an hour, hour and a half in this small room with the whole team, the staff, and basically opened up the floor to questions and was like ask me anything you want.”
Caruso said that someone asked Presti what he looks for in a guy when evaluating G League players to bring up and play for the NBA team. The first two attributes Presti mentioned were how many positions you could guard and how good of a teammate you were. Caruso took this to heart and remembers this as a turning point in his career.
“I think just having that discussion where I understood what someone in a front office for an NBA team is actually looking for and once I got that information I was just like alright I know I can do good, now let’s just get better at the other stuff”
From there, Caruso focused on getting better at defense and working on the little things he could do to help an NBA team be successful. This proved to be valuable as he started for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals, where they would go on to win the title.
While his 6.5 points per game in the recent postseason run were great, his impact was felt much more in other areas. He produced 59 assists, 48 rebounds, 23 steals, and 12 blocks through 21 playoff games in 2020. This goes to show that scoring the ball and being flashy isn’t always the way to get noticed by front offices around the league when looking to fill the end of their bench with G League players. Caruso found a recipe for success being solid across the board.