Lakers' LeBron James and Jarred Vanderbilt

Getty Jarred Vanderbilt #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Armed with three first-round picks, the Los Angeles Lakers could go star hunting or strengthen their supporting cast around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

If the Lakers opt for the latter, one trade they could make is to bring back defensive lynchpin Alex Caruso. Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley proposed a trade that might convince the Chicago Bulls to return Caruso to the Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers receive: Alex Caruso

Chicago Bulls receive: Jarred Vanderbilt and a 2029 first-round pick (top-four-protected)

“While the Lakers could try the third-star route this offseason, they are “leaning more toward upgrading the supporting cast,” per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. This deal would not only deliver one of the Association’s best role players, it would also reunite LeBron James with a key piece of their 2019-20 championship team and someone he wished had never left,” Buckley wrote.

Caruso was hailed as James’ best teammate.

Over the last two seasons they played together, James and Caruso had the highest net rating among any two-man lineup in the team. During their championship run in the 2019-20 season, they had a plus-18.6 net rating. The following season, Caruso’s final year with the Lakers, they registered a plus-17.1 net rating.

James even nicknamed Caruso G.O.A.T. during his Lakers days.

“Every time he’s in the game, he’s a plus guy,” James said of Caruso in a New York Times interview in 2020. “He can do so much. He can defend at a high level. He’s very smart. He’s very tough. To have him on this ball club is a luxury.”

Bulls Want OG Anunoby-Type Package for Alex Caruso

Ahead of the last February trade deadline, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Bulls put a high price tag for Caruso.

“If they’re going to trade Alex Caruso, they want a lot for him like an OG Anunoby-type deal as what’s been described to me,” Wojnarowski said on “The Woj Pod” at that time.

The Raptors received two starting-level players in Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett and a second-round pick for Anunoby from the New York Knicks.

In Buckley’s proposal, Vanderbilt, who is the Lakers’ most versatile defender, fits the label of a starting-caliber player. A first-round pick with light protection further down the road when James is already retired could be the equivalent of one more starting-caliber player and a second round pick.

Alex Caruso Admits Thinking About ‘What Could Have Been’

If the Lakers regret their decision to let him walk in the summer of 2021, Caruso also thinks about what could have been had they re-signed him.

“Yeah, definitely,” Caruso told FOX Sports after the Chicago Bulls’ 141-132 loss to his former team on January 25 at his old stomping ground. “Just because of how well I played with them when I was here. I know how I supported them. And I’ve gotten better. I was expecting myself to get better. It’s actually what had to move me on. I kept getting better and eventually I was at a point where I couldn’t stay here.

“I definitely have always thought about it because those guys [James and Davis] are my brothers. We’ve been through a lot together. Always good seeing them. Every now and then you think about what could’ve been.”

Caruso just earned his second All-NBA Defensive nod following a career season, averaging 10.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.

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