This article looks at Jose Calderon’s 2007-08 season, in the style of Hardwood Paroxysm’s Lost Season series.
When Steve Nash signed with the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns, he kickstarted the era of the point guard, resulting in the Golden Age we’re still in. One of those point guards has, for the most part, fallen between the cracks, despite the fact he produced one of the most efficient seasons in recent memory. I speak of Jose Calderon’s 2007-2008 season with the Toronto Raptors.
Nowadays, when you imagine Calderon, it’s as an example of the mixed bag European players can be. He’s devolved into a serviceable player on offense and a relative sieve on the defensive end. But at one time, he was a sharpshooter capable of running an offense with the best of them, while also keeping the ball in his own team’s possession. He was still a defensive sieve, but asking for much better on that end would just be pushing your luck from a man with limited athleticism and foot speed.
2007-08 was his second year playing in a platoon with TJ Ford, but a Bynum-esque foul from Al Horford allowed Calderon to crack 30 minutes a game for the first time in his career. In 2006, Calderon had played well in limited minutes in a backup role, spelling Ford, running the 2nd Team offense, and generally being one of the better bench players in the league. No one was prepared for what the next season would bring.
Playing on a Raptors team that, under Sam Mitchell, had the seventh slowest pace in the league, Calderon was a revelation. He had the best Assist-to-Turnover ratio among all point guards who played at least 20 minutes per game in at least 20 games, ahead of such luminaries as Chris Paul and Steve Nash, and had the third most Weighted Assists (taking into account assists leading to 3’s) per minute.
Calderon also continued his excellent shooting. He shot 51.9% from the field, 42.9% from three, and 90.8% from the charity stripe, barely missing the 50-40-90 Club by sixteen free throw attempts. He was also a constant, playing in every single game, and coming in second only to Anthony Parker for most minutes played on the team.
He was a key member of a Raptors team that, despite disappointing by winning six fewer games than the year before, still finished second in the division only to Boston, and still made the Playoffs. He was also a big reason why the Raptors managed to push their first round series with the Magic to five games, despite their only real center being Rasho Nesterovic.
Even though he never reached that plateau again, he didn’t really drop off the face of the Association. The next year his injury problems started (strangely, he’s played exactly 68 games every year in the 3 years since), and he began to slip, ever so slightly, shooting a tad worse from the field and from distance (although he set a free throw percentage record), and averaging a few less assists and a few more turnovers per minute.
For that one shining season, he captured lightning in a bottle. He stepped into the void left by TJ Ford’s injury and became a prototypical floor general on one of the better teams in the franchise’s history. Ever since, Jose has established his niche. He’s a player best suited to a role in a platoon, a guy who doesn’t have the defensive skills to play starter’s minutes. The drop-off hasn’t really been reflected in his numbers, outside of a drop in shooting percentages and a decrease in efficiency, but his on the court play tells the true story. He’ll probably never again reach that level of efficiency again, and it’s a shame, because for a while, we were watching one of the best seasons a point guard has ever played.
Atique Virani can be found on his website The World Through Sports (http://worldthroughsports.wordpress.com/) and on Twitter @AtweetVirani.