Defensive standout named “ambitious” trade target for Hawks

NBA: APR 17 Play In East Hawks at Bulls

It’s the calm before the storm for the Atlanta Hawks this summer. As the Western Conference Finals wrap up, a new champion will soon be crowned followed by a flood of rumors and reports.

Atlanta is sure to be at the forefront of the offseason’s rumor mill. The Hawks not only own the top pick in the NBA Draft, but they have a slew of trade-worthy pieces in Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Clint Capela, Onyeka Okongwu, De’Andre Hunter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, etc.

Depending on which All-Star point guard the Hawks trade, Atlanta’s approach to the rest of the offseason will be very different. If it’s Trae Young that is dealt, the Hawks will have to replace that production, which will be done by committee because no single player can replace Young’s offensive production.

If it’s Murray that is traded, the Hawks will need to commit to building an excellent defense around Trae Young, and a trade for defensive standout Alex Caruso is exactly what Bleacher Report’s Conor Hughes sees for Atlanta.

Caruso’s current team, the Chicago Bulls, already have Coby White in place as their point guard. That means a Murray-for-Caruso swap wouldn’t make sense. Atlanta could send Murray to a destination in greater need of his services and reroute some of the assets to the Bulls in a package for the star stopper.

No guard who logged at least 25 games last season posted a higher Defensive Estimated Plus/Minus than Caruso, who rates as one of the rare backcourt players whose impact approaches that of the typically more valuable paint-protecting big man. His ability to disrupt at the point of attack, blow up screening actions and force opposing ball-handlers away from their spots can change the outcome of entire games.

Murray overlapped more than expected with Young, and the Hawks didn’t look nearly different enough after adding him at the 2023 trade deadline. Caruso would bring a more fundamental change to Atlanta’s makeup, adding an element of predatory defense that simply hasn’t been there.

Alex Caruuso is never going to light up the box score regularly. He just put up a career-high 10.1 points per game, but he plays winning basketball. He does everything well, from defense to playing his role. He put up 1.7 steals to go along with a 40.8% clip from beyond the arc.

Caruso is going into the final year of a four-year, $36.9 million contract. He’s not a player the Bulls should be eager to deal, especially if they are attempting to remain competitive. But if the opportunity arises, the Hawks would be foolish not to try to acquire a player like Alex Caruso.

He would be the perfect backcourt counterpart for Trae Young.

Photographer: Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire
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