Bulls, Thunder swap Caruso, Giddey in 1-for-1 trade (2024)

By Shams Charania, Darnell Mayberry and Tobias Bass

The Oklahoma City Thunder acquired guard Alex Caruso from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for guard Josh Giddey.

Caruso, 30, spent the past three seasons with the Bulls where he made two All-Defensive teams. He will head to Oklahoma City as it looks to contend again for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.


In 71 games this season, Caruso averaged 10.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Thunder general manager Sam Presti called Caruso the “quintessential Thunder player.”

“He is an exceptional competitor and teammate with a multi-dimensional skillset,” Presti said in a statement. “His presence and game will help elevate the core of our team as we continue to strive to build a sustainably elite program in Oklahoma City.”

With knee surgeries sidelining Lonzo Ball for most of the last two seasons, the Bulls have pivoted to find a younger playmaker in Giddey to potentially replace him.

Giddey, the sixth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, started 210 games for the Thunder, including 80 this past season, where he averaged 12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

Presti said the team determined that Giddey coming off the bench next season would be its “best option,” but that moving out of the starting lineup was hard for Giddey to envision. That led to Oklahoma City exploring trade opportunities.

“As always was the case, Josh demonstrated the utmost professionalism throughout the discussions,” Presti said in a statement. “Josh has All-Star potential, but accessing that in the current construct of the Thunder would not be optimal for the collective. Based on these discussions we decided to move forward and prioritize what was best for the organization.”

The Thunder had the second-best record in the NBA (57-25) before falling to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals.

What Giddey brings to the Bulls

The sixth pick in the 2021 draft, Giddey is a 6-foot-8, multifaceted wing who will add another dimension to Chicago’s roster with his playmaking. Giddey averages 13.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists over 210 career games, all as a starter.

Shooting is Giddey’s sore spot. He’s a career 31 percent 3-point shooter. But the 21-year-old showed massive improvement over the final 22 regular season games last season, when he averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and six assists while shooting 53.9 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point range. Giddey extended that performance into the first round against the New Orleans Pelicans, making 9-of-18 3-pointers. But against the Dallas Mavericks in the second round, Giddey went just 3-for-16 from 3-point range. The Thunder moved the ineffective Giddey to a reserve role in their final two games.


Giddey’s acquisition also further clouds the Bulls’ plans for Ball, who hasn’t played since January 2022 but is expected to make a comeback next season. It’s impossible to not view Giddey as insurance in case Ball doesn’t return. By bringing in Giddey, the Bulls also might have signaled they’re ready to move on from Ball. A trade or buyout could be likely.

With Giddey, though, the Bulls have another young piece who gives Chicago a chance at rebuilding. The Bulls were stuck in neutral continuing with what was virtually the same roster for the past three seasons. — Darnell Mayberry, Bulls senior writer

What Caruso adds to the Thunder

Oklahoma City needed interior size but started this summer by snagging arguably the league’s best perimeter defender. In fact, there’s not a player on the court who Caruso won’t defend. For the past three seasons, the Bulls basically abused Caruso’s willingness to do whatever was necessary to keep an injury-plagued Bulls roster in the playoff hunt.

Caruso landed on the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team last season, and he helped to transform the Bulls into a top-five defensive unit in 2022-23. At various times during his three seasons in Chicago, Caruso garnered “MVP” chants from the home fans, a sign of how important his contributions were for the Bulls.

In Oklahoma City, Caruso will join an already elite defensive squad that ranked in the top five last season. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, Chet Holmgren, Cason Wallace and now Caruso, the Thunder should again be one of the league’s best defensive teams next season. On the Thunder, Caruso will be a much-needed veteran presence who will help to guide his new, relatively inexperienced teammates.

With a loaded roster, the Thunder also should be able to keep Caruso’s minutes down as a way to ensure he remains healthy for what will likely be a deep playoff run. — Mayberry


What the deal means for both franchise’s futures

Oklahoma City just completed the type of deal close observers believed it should have made last season prior to the trade deadline. If Caruso was on the Thunder last season, does Oklahoma City lose to Dallas in the conference semifinals?

With less than a week remaining before the draft, the Thunder didn’t waste any moretime before bolstering their roster and strengthening their championship odds. Caruso is in the final year of his contract but becomes extension-eligible in November. Early projections say Caruso is eligible to receive up to a maximum four-year deal worth about $80 million.

Chicago, meanwhile, has more questions that need to be answered. After stubbornly holding onto Caruso through last season, the Bulls parted with perhaps their best asset and didn’t receive any future draft capital — from a franchise in possession of an army of picks.

The worst thing the Bulls can do is try to replicate a low-budget Ball in the form of Giddey. It almost reeks of the Bulls’ front office attempting to replicate a roster that showed brief promise when Ball was last healthy in 2021-22 but one that wasn’t good enough to win at a high level even then.

A better alternative for the Bulls would be to make Caruso the first casualty of a house-cleaning project that ushers in a new direction. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full rebuild. But the attention immediately turns to what the Bulls will do with Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević. — Mayberry

Require reading

  • NBA free agency starts … right now? A few deals we could see sooner rather than later
  • Alex Caruso-Josh Giddey trade grades: Thunder add defense, shooting; Bulls get younger

(Photo: Rich Storry / Getty Images)

Bulls, Thunder swap Caruso, Giddey in 1-for-1 trade (2024)


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