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We have our first big trade of the 2024 offseason! The Oklahoma City Thunder struck first and acquired Alex Caruso from the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls will acquire Josh Giddey in a rare one-for-one straight-up swap of players.

Here are the particulars:

Oklahoma City Thunder acquire: Alex Caruso

Chicago Bulls acquire: Josh Giddey

Let’s dive in!

Oklahoma City Thunder

Incoming salary: $9.9 million in 2024-25
Alex Caruso (SG, one year, $9.9 million)

Outgoing salary: $8.4 million in 2024-25
Josh Giddey (SG/SF, one year, $8.4 million)

The Thunder were the fourth-ranked defense in the NBA last season. Now, they add one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders to mix. Good luck finding easy points on Oklahoma City. Alex Caruso was named to the All-Defensive Second Team, and very easily could have been named to the First Team. He’s capable of defending anyone 1-3. He excels at getting around screens, hounding ballhandlers and playing passing lanes. Caruso is the rare perimeter defender who can be a steals merchant, but without having to gamble to get his thefts. While Josh Giddey is a good defender, Caruso is an upgrade.

Here’s the real kicker: Caruso is a major upgrade over Giddey on offense.

Caruso is a better shooter than Giddey. By a very wide margin too. He won’t get played off the floor by opposing defenses ignoring him. He’s also a pretty good playmaker too. In addition, Caruso will help Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with some of the ballhandling duties. Any downgrade in playmaking and ballhandling from Giddey to Caruso will be offset by an upgrade in shooting.

One place Oklahoma City did downgrade in this trade is on the boards. Giddey was one of the Thunder’s better rebounders. Caruso isn’t on his level there. But that’s something Sam Presti should be able to address with further moves this offseason.

This trade is an absolute homerun for the Thunder. They’ll likely have extension conversations with Caruso as soon as possible. They’re eligible to offer him up to a four-year extension worth as much as $77.7 million this offseason. Given how aggressive Oklahoma City has been in locking up their own players, expect Caruso to be extended long before next season ends.

If all of that isn’t enough, there’s more good news for the Thunder. They only took on about $1.5 million in this trade. Presti should still have about $33.7 million in cap space to work with this summer. As we wrote in their Offseason Preview, Oklahoma City has only one, or maybe two, rotation spots to fill.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were already really good and had the flexibility to add to their roster this summer. Now, they’re already better, and still have the flexibility to add to their roster.. That’s scary for a team that was the top seed in the Western Conference this past season.

(Minor note: Caruso’s deal is technically only guaranteed for $3 million for next season. But it will end up becoming fully guaranteed upon completion of this deal.)

Chicago Bulls

Incoming salary: $8.4 million in 2024-25
Josh Giddey (SG/SF, one year, $8.4 million)

Outgoing salary: $9.9 million in 2024-25
Alex Caruso (SG, one year, $9.9 million)

The Chicago Bulls remain one of the more confusing teams. Not just entering this offseason, but period. The Bulls reportedly had offers that included at least one future first-round pick for Alex Caruso at the trade deadline. It’s not that Josh Giddey is a bad player, but Chicago should have taken draft picks if offered.

Chicago will save a little bit of money for next season. But they aren’t a cap space team, and they aren’t so close to the tax line that $1.5 million will make that big of a difference. If any motivation in this deal was about saving money, that doesn’t make much sense as things are currently constructed.

In Giddey, the Bulls add a versatile player. Giddey has shown the ability to guard 2-4, which is helpful. He’s also a very good rebounder for his position, along with being a very good playmaker. He’s got a nice all-around game that is versatile enough to fit with different players and in different schemes.

That being said…Giddey can’t shoot. The Bulls are already light on shooting and this make them even worse with their floor spacing.

Giddey is a good playmaker, but Chicago has made it clear they would like to re-sign DeMar DeRozan. If they do, he’s going to have the ball a lot. The Bulls also expect to have Lonzo Ball back. Ball’s main skill is his passing and ballhandling. In addition, Chicago has Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu on the roster as ballhandlers and scoring guards.

Essentially: Giddey’s best skills aren’t in demand in the Chicago the way they were needed in Oklahoma City.

Giddey is eligible for a rookie scale extension. We kind of saw a trade coming for that season. The Thunder, who have other major extensions coming down the pike, now don’t have to deal with a new deal for Giddey.

The Bulls do. And in order for this trade to make sense at all, Chicago needs to get Giddey signed to a solid deal. Something in the range of four years and $90 to $100 million (possibly with some incentives around three-point shooting) probably makes sense. That might seem pricey, but remember where the cap is headed. $22 to $25 million will be less than 17% of the cap. Giddey has his flaws, but he’s worth investing that much in for his all-around ability.

There’s also a chance this trade signals that maybe the Bulls are headed in a different direction. Maybe they won’t re-sign DeRozan to a big deal. Maybe they’ll trade Zach LaVine for youth and cap flexibility. Maybe they’ll find a trade for Nikola Vucevic. If so, then this deal makes a lot more sense and becomes easier to swallow.

One final thing: The Bulls made this trade with the Thunder. Oklahoma City has more draft picks than they could possibly ever use. How does Chicago not come away with at least a protected first-round pick or a couple of second-round picks? This trade would be a lot more palatable with some draft compensation headed the Bulls way.

For now, the Chicago Bulls remain confusing. But the rest of this summer may bring a lot more clarity with subsequent roster decisions. However, given past history, don’t hold your breath waiting for that clarity to come.