Sixers are betting favorites for Alex Caruso, but should they be?

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Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso can’t get to a loose ball in time during the overtime of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

In the midst of the team’s first losing streak of the season, many are already looking at ways the Philadelphia 76ers could improve their roster further. Among the Sixers’ perceived needs are a secondary ball-handler, a volume shooter, and a perimeter/guard defender. There is a player who checks off one of those boxes in a big way, and the Sixers are the current betting favorite to land that player.

Around the league, teams are waiting for the Chicago Bulls to implode. Among the players expected to be eventually moved is defensive maestro Alex Caruso, who is expected to have many suitors, but according to Bovada Sportsbook, the Sixers are the most likely landing spot.

Take that for what you will; the odds are simply just that, and the difference between the Sixers (+250) and the second-ranked Lakers (+300) is negligible at best. But that does not mean that Philadelphia will not be in the hunt either.

The Sixers would almost certainly be interested in a player of Caruso’s skill set and ability, as he is among the top perimeter defenders in the league while also proving to be a capable shooter and playmaker. That’s exactly why the Sixers may not be as likely to close a deal here as many, including the nice folks at Bovada, think.

Caruso is undoubtedly among the top role players on the trade market, which means his market will be extremely competitive. Perhaps, it will prove even too rich for Daryl Morey’s blood.

Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey speaks during a news conference at the NBA basketball team’s training facility, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Meanwhile, the Bulls have yet to even make Caruso available in trade talks, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. While that tune is likely to change, it signals they value Caruso to a high degree.

It may come as a surprise to some, but the potential asking price just to land an audience for Caruso is expected to be higher than a first-round pick, perhaps even two. Players of Caruso’s ability—not to mention his affordability—are at such a premium in the league that the bidding war for his services may be more involved than any other this trade season.

Caruso is in the second year of a three-year deal that will pay him just $9.5 million this season. As far as next season is concerned, he is only on the books for $3 million guaranteed on a total deal of $9.9 million. The Sixers would have until June 30, 2024, to guarantee that deal, but it’s hard to see any team passing on Caruso at roughly $10 million.

Many teams will be willing to move a small fortune to bring in a player like that. While the Sixers will likely do their due diligence, they may not be as willing to empty the vault as much as their competition.

Somehow, Philadelphia finds themselves in the position to potentially acquire a true star to join Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey this offseason. Would they thumb their nose at that opportunity for a player who, while talented, is limited on one end of the court?

Names like Paul George, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam have been at the forefront of rumors circling the team’s offseason—and perhaps even deadline—plans. Is acquiring Caruso worth potentially throwing off this plan? And would it truly do that in the first place?

LA Clippers forward Paul George brings the ball up court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

The saving grace of this argument is that Caruso would not interfere with the team’s plans for acquiring a star through free agency at least. However, their trade options would be significantly limited without the draft assets they’ll surely have to part with.

What exactly that package is for the moment is purely speculative, and it could change if the list of contenders begins to dry up come February, but that also shouldn’t be the expectation. There will always be teams willing to pay a premium for players like Caruso, perhaps so many that Daryl Morey and the Sixers decide they’re better off without.

Unfortunately, the Sixers being named the betting favorites to land Alex Caruso doesn’t mean a thing. However, that doesn’t mean the team won’t do their due diligence or that he isn’t worth acquiring. The only question remaining is if Daryl Morey feels he’s worth the pool of assets he’s expected to demand.

If he is, and the Sixers are able to win the bidding war, Philadelphia will have added one of the fiercest defenders in the entire league with the prospect of retaining him for next season. In a sense, it’s a problem where virtually no matter the outcome, there’s a positive way to frame it.