Sunday, September 24 2023

Starting Caruso at forward vs. big Raptors is safe bet originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

For several days, Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan has pointed to the Toronto Raptors’ size, length and physicality as reasons they won the season series by dominating offensive rebounding and forcing turnovers defensively.

So could Donovan start 6 foot, 8 inch Patrick Williams at power forward over 6-5 Alex Caruso?

“I’m not opposed to that at all. Obviously, they’re all going to play,” Donovan said. “I do think that they’re obviously a really big and physical team. And they’re one of the better rebounding teams in the league. But to be quite honest, I think some of our difficulties rebounding have had very little to do with size. I think it’s been more the consistency of what you have to do, whether it be rotational boxouts or guys running to the rim. We could be bigger and still not rebound well enough. I think there are things technique-wise that we have to do to be better.”

Donovan doesn’t reveal his starters. But the more he talked, the more it sounded like he’d lean on the veteran-laden lineup of Caruso, Patrick Beverley, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic that, barring injury, he has used since Beverley’s arrival for multiple reasons.

For—pun intended—starters, that five-man grouping has produced the best net rating of any unit that logged 100 or more minutes this season. In 267 shared minutes, that group has a plus-14.7 net rating with an offensive rating of 115.6.

Contrast that with Williams replacing Caruso and that five-man unit producing a shocking minus-31.6 net rating over 129 minutes with an offensive rating of 95.3.

Plus, bringing Williams off the bench keeps him paired with Coby White, a duo that has found chemistry together since Beverley’s arrival.

“I do think for PatBev and for Alex, there are two things that stand out. One is they’re very high IQ players. They know the league very well. And they’ve established themselves as being elite defenders,” Donovan said. “I think with Zach and DeMar and Vooch out there alongside those two guys, they understand how to play offensively.

“They’ve got the experience. Alex played with LeBron James. PatBev throughout his career has played alongside a lot of elite scorers—Harden, different guys with the Clippers. They know how to function and flow. That experience, their IQ and savviness and what they bring defensively has allowed that group to be good.”

In their first of two regular-season victories, the Raptors forced 17 turnovers that they turned into 23 points and grabbed 23 offensive rebounds that they turned into 27 second-chance points.

In their second, and only meeting after acquiring Jakob Poeltl, the Raptors forced 20 turnovers that they cashed in for 21 points and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds for 15 second-chance points.

“He’s definitely helped them a lot,” Donovan said of Poeltl. “His size and physicality, being older and coming from San Antonio where he got a chance to play a lot, he has definitely been a great addition for them. His screening and rolling, rebounding, all those things have helped their team.”

At every turn, Beverley has downplayed his impact since coming to his hometown team. But beyond the above net rating with the starters, the Bulls are 14-9 since his arrival.

And everyone from Donovan to former coaches in Doc Rivers and Chris Finch have raved about his high IQ and positive leadership.

“I feel like I impact winning on every level,” Beverley said. “I’m just fortunate to play postseason, still have fun with the game. It’s a lot of pressure on a lot of people. Just a regular game, baby. Just a regular game.”

For the most part, though, Beverley still didn’t bite on his impact.

“I got lucky I got some real good coaches,” Beverley said. “Hall of Fame coach, Doc Rivers. Coach Finch, I think his numbers historically have been some of the best offensive numbers that the NBA has seen. I credit my coaches. I’m just out there trying to do what I do.”

What Beverley did acknowledge is how seamless the fit has been for him to enter that new-look lineup with Caruso.

“It’s basketball. It’s about putting the ball in the hole and stopping other people from putting the ball in the hole,” Beverley said. “I’ve been fortunate in my career to play with a lot of great players, Hall of Fame players. I’ve been fortunate to be coached by Hall of Fame coaches.

“I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid. The game really doesn’t change. The people in it does. The speed of it changes. The amount of 3-point attempts changes. But it’s still the same game. Being selfless. If you’re supposed to cut, cut. If you’re supposed to pass it, pass it. Just being a basketball player.”

And it’s clear he enjoys playing alongside another high-IQ, defensive-minded player in Caruso, which makes it all the more likely that Caruso will start.

“I didn’t know he could slide them like that,” Beverley said. “When I say slide then, I mean move laterally. He’s able to guard bigger guards too. He uses his body a lot, puts his body on the line, takes a bunch of charges. He’s elite. I knew he was solid; I didn’t know he was that good.”

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Source: Yahoo Sports


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