Bulls guard Alex Caruso named to NBA’s All-Defensive first team

Caruso became the first Bull to achieve the honor since Joakim Noah accomplished the feat in the 2013-14 season.

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Alex Caruso

Alex Caruso became the first Bull since Joakim Noah to receive NBA First Team All-Defensive honors.

Nell Redmond/AP

There were very few times this season when Bulls guard Alex Caruso would go on the offensive. Petitioning for leaguewide recognition was one of them.

Just before the Bulls’ season ended with a play-in loss to the Heat in Miami, Caruso was discussing the prospect of being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team for the 2022-23 season and didn’t undersell how much that would mean to him.

‘‘I think it would be cool,’’ Caruso said twice in the conversation. ‘‘I know the level I’m capable of.’’

Now, so does the rest of the league.

The NBA announced Tuesday that Caruso was named to the All-Defensive first team, his first selection to an all-defensive team since he was named All-SEC defensive team at Texas A&M in 2016.

This one carries a bit more weight.

Caruso became the first Bulls player to earn first-team honors since Joakim Noah was selected in 2013-14, but the NBA has changed a bit in the last decade, which was another reason Caruso pointed out the importance of what he did this season.

‘‘I think it’s more of an accomplishment now than it’s ever been, just because of how deep the league is,’’ Caruso said last month. ‘‘There’s so much more offense. There are so many more players averaging 20-plus, 25-plus, 30-plus. There are so many more possessions in the game.

‘‘And just to go from the point I was at six years ago — like, couldn’t even get a team to bet on me, didn’t get drafted and had to go to the G League. The path it took to get to this point, it’s humbling. But it’s rewarding at the same time.’’

Caruso averaged 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks and 3.4 deflections in 23.5 minutes in 67 games (36 starts) this season. He ranked first in the NBA in steals per 100 possessions (3.0), first in deflections per 36 minutes (5.2), tied for fifth in deflections per game (3.4), sixth in total deflections (226), tied for ninth in steals per game (1.5) and 14th in total steals (98).

Not only did he have the numbers to receive the honor, but he was a key communicator for his teammates, helping the Bulls finish fifth in defensive rating (111.5) as a team.

Joining Caruso on the first team were the Bucks’ Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez, the Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley and the Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr., who already had been voted Defensive Player of the Year.

The Celtics’ Derrick White, the Warriors’ Draymond Green, the Raptors’ O.G. Anunoby, the Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks and the Heat’s Bam Adebayo made the second team.

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