Los Angeles Lakers: 3 Big questions heading into the All-Star break

(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Lakers
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Why hasn’t Alex Caruso replaced Rajon Rondo as the Lakers backup point guard?

Alex Caruso played 22 minutes in the Lakers recent game versus the Denver Nuggets. During Caruso’s time on the floor, he changed the entire complexion of the game, helping LA’s reeling bench turn a double-digit deficit into a close battle. Caruso finished the contest with a game-high +23 net rating.

After the game, Frank Vogel called Alex Caruso the Lakers “secret weapon.” That nickname is disturbing because the word “secret” has several underlying connotations, none of which are good. It means that Alex Caruso doesn’t get significant playing time off the bench. It also means that often Alex isn’t even part of the regular rotation. Finally, it indicates that Vogel continues to doggedly rely on Rajon Rondo as the Lakers backup point guard.

Caruso isn’t just better than Rajon Rondo; he obliterates him in every statistical category that matters.

According to ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus rating, Caruso is the 8th best defender in the league (3.53).

Alex is ranked 14th in www.nba.com’s defensive rating (minimum of 15 minutes per game).

Rajon Rondo sits at the bottom half of the league in both metrics.

On offense, Alex is shooting 36 percent from deep. Meanwhile, Rondo is only hitting 35 percent of his 3-point attempts even though opposing squads consistently leave him wide-open and beg him to shoot.

Rajon Rondo gets the majority of the Lakers backup point guard minutes because he supposed to keep the Lakers offense humming when LeBron sits. Things haven’t worked out that way. The Lakers are 6.3 points worse with Rondo on the floor.

The Lakers are elite, but once the playoffs start, LeBron’s time on the bench will be dubious. Frank Vogel needs to rework the second unit. Instead of stubbornly asking Rajon Rondo to run the team, he should turn to Alex Caruso.

When LeBron rests, the Lakers should lean on their defense while surrounding AD with 3-point shooters to spread the floor for him. Caruso is one of the best 3-and-D players in the association. He should supplant Rondo as the Lakers backup point guard.