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Jose Calderon Needs A Fresh Start With A New Team

By 12.18.12

Jose Calderon

So Calderon was again the point guard in Toronto to begin the 2010-11 season, and he again failed to live up to his earlier production. At that point, Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa were getting time at the point while Calderon again only appeared in 68 games. He only started 55 of those and shot his lowest percentage since his rookie year, at 44.0 percent and 36.5 from deep. That’s still above average, but it was the third straight year his shooting and three-point shooting percentages dropped. His free throw shooting was back up over 85 percent and he was dishing better than he ever had (10.4 assists per 36 minutes), but Calderon’s offense was still regressing in the third year of his deal. With Jay Triano still the coach in Toronto, and Calderon still getting most of the starts at the point, the Raptors would finish the 2010-11 campaign at 22-60 and miss out on the playoffs for the third consecutive year (also the third year into Calderon’s new deal).

Last season, the Raptors got rid of Triano as coach and brought in Dwane Casey, which meant their defense got a lot better, but their offense wasn’t as productive as it had been in season’s past. They were still in the cellar for most of the lockout-shortened season. Some of the blame has to fall to Calderon who was again their starting point guard in 53 out of 66 games. The team finished 23-43 under Casey and missed the playoffs, but they weren’t as awful as the year before, and Calderon showed some signs of improvement. He shot 45.7 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc, both up from the year before. It was the first year during Calderon’s $45 million contract where he didn’t shoot worse than the year prior, and he was still averaging over eight assists and 10 points a game.

So where are Calderon and the Raptors through 25 games this season? Well, he’s only started 10 of the team’s 25 games while appearing in all of them. As mentioned earlier, Kyle Lowry took over the starting point guard duties, which makes Calderon either the most expensive backup point guard in the league or a very well-compensated third guard who can move over to the two when DeMar DeRozan needs a rest. Calderon, for his part, has thrived in a backup role again. His three-point shooting in particular has been excellent at over 44 percent, and he’s still dishing over nine dimes per 36 minutes and shooting over 90 percent from the charity stripe. Those are all improvements from the 2011-12 season, but he’s shooting worse from the field than he is from long range, 42.6 percentage, which is down significantly from the 45.7 percent he shot last season. Looking at that low number, it’s primarily at the rim where he’s missing this season. He’s been at 60 percent or higher for his career from that distance, but a dreadful 52 percent this year (via Hoopdata). Look for that to improve, and his shooting percentage to raise as a result.

The Raptors are 6-19 and only ahead of Cleveland and Washington in the Eastern Conference. Kyle Lowry, when he’s been able to play, has actually been getting it done. Lowry has a top 10 PER among all guards averaging over 20 minutes a night, per Hoopdata, and with Calderon’s contract set to expire this summer there are plenty of teams that need backcourt help (ahem, the Lakers). Calderon is available, but the Raptors might force a team to also pick up Bargnani and his dreadful shooting. But for the last three quarters of the season, Calderon would be helpful and Bargnani would just be part of the price. Both can stretch the court, even if Bargnani makes Antawn Jamison look like a legitimate defender.

Signing Calderon to an extension this summer is something that should give every GM pause, though, even if he helps a team like Los Angeles achieve postseason glory. If you look at his body of work since signing that initial deal with Toronto in the summer after his 2007-08 season, he’s been on a steady decline until last season, and he’s no longer a young man, having turned 31 years old in September this year. Sure, he still has a few years left in the tank, but he’s not the hyper efficient statistical marvel he was earlier in his career. Calderon may just be a prime case of the law of diminishing returns. The moment you expect him to play 36 minutes a night as a top-10 point guard, is the moment when all his percentages drop and he becomes another ho-hum guard on a terrible team. Not an awful point, but not an All-Star, either. But if you’re say, the Lakers, and you need a point that will protect the ball, knows how to initiate an offense, and can shoot a high percentage from long range, you might want to think about giving Bryan Colangelo a call. They’ve only been trying to trade Calderon’s contract since the summer of 2010, so I’m pretty sure they’d listen to whatever offers Mitch Kupchak is thinking about. Still, the Lakers should also think twice about exchanging Pau Gasol for Calderon and Bargnani.

There are no easy predictions for the next few years of Jose Calderon’s career because we don’t even know where he’s gonna be next week. But we can safely say he’s worn out his welcome in Toronto. What once was a promising future in Canada turned into the cold truth that Calderon might not ever be the starting point guard Toronto thought he was after that miraculous 2007-08 season. It’s cold enough in Toronto without their basketball team and franchise point guard making things colder. Hopefully this spring will thaw the chill of the last few years, and give Calderon a fresh start elsewhere.

Should the Raptors trade Calderon?

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