Name: Jose Calderon
Position: Point Guard
Weight: 210 lbs.
College: n/a [Tau Ceramica, Spain]
Season with Raptors: 7
2011-2012 Stats: 53 GP, 33.9 MPG, 10.5 PPG, 8.8 APG, 3.1 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 45.7 FG%, 37.1 3P%, 88.2 FT%, 16.73 PER
Analysis: Jose, one of the most beloved Raps ever, enters this season on a note of controversy. He has publicly stated his desire to be traded, understandably viewing the trade for Kyle Lowry as a slap in the face. Jose is almost certain to begin the season as the backup Point Guard, which hasn’t happened since T.J. Ford was in town.
Let’s back up. Jose joined the Raps in 2005 from Tau Ceramica of Spain as a pass-first playmaker. His jump shot was an eyesore, but he worked assiduously in the off-season to improve it, and came back in Year 2 dramatically improved. I mention this historical note because it’s a microcosm of his character. Jose will not stop working to improve his game, and he has enough latent athleticism to make his effort bear fruit. He is considered one of the fittest Raps ever to slip on a sweater, and has not allowed a fat bank account and advancing years to disrupt his routines.
All of that good stuff aside, Father Time shows up early in the NBA. Careers are short for a reason. Jose struggles (oh, does he struggle) to keep his man in front of him when the young speed merchant PGs like John Wall, Kemba Walker, et al, come to town. Jose used to turn the corner several times a game to beat his man for an easy layup – that’s all but gone. Jose’s jumper is a threat from anywhere on the floor, but he must have space, as his leap is no longer sufficient to get the shot off when tightly guarded.
OK, that was depressing. Jose is still a fine ball-handler, play caller and passer, and he boasts an admirable career assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.16. Last season, that critical number was 4.48, so he hasn’t lost his ability to protect the ball, and make the good pass. Jose’s career free-throw shooting percentage of 87.5 makes him the wrong guy to foul any time, but particularly at game’s end. Coach Casey trusts Jose, whom I expect to see on the floor when the Raps are striving to close out tight victories.
This season is going to be one of upheaval for Jose, and how he handles his changing role on the team will determine how successful he is personally. Unless Lowry, the traded-for and anointed #1 PG, flops in pre-season, Jose will not start. That means he’ll be calling plays for Ed Davis, rather than Jonas, and passing to Aaron Gray, not Andrea Bargnani. Consequently, his assists number will decrease, as will his MPG, and his frustration level will rise. His response to this stress will be critical to determining whether he’s going to finish this season as a Rap.
The most important determinant for a trade is if the Raps are in contention for a playoff spot. If they are, Jose will likely remain. If not, I’d wager he will be the first one out the door. Of course, he needs to be playing well in order to entice a contender. I think he’s enough of a professional to set aside his personal woes, rather than force a trade by shabby effort (you may remember Vince Carter’s dreadful last half-season as a Rap – nothing short of a disgrace).
Jose’s contract is viewed by many commentators as too pricey, but it expires this year, and is thus a valuable asset in the often upside-down world of NBA trades. A foreigner-friendly team like San Antonio might be a good landing spot for Jose, who has expressed a desire to play meaningful games again before he’s done. Jose would have little difficulty finding his feet on a veteran, successful squad like the Spurs, as the backup to the marvelous Tony Parker.
Here’s a warning, which applies to all trades but particularly to those involving a key position like point guard: if you’re going to trade your backup, you’d better be damn sure you’ve got a player ready to step into the role. Having an overmatched PG, even on the second unit, is a quick route to a failed season.
Jose has bled Raptor red and white for many seasons. It would be a wonderful thing to see this skilful and hard-working fellow one last time on the playoff big stage.
Key stat to watch-APG: This may seem obvious, but it’s not. Jose will be trying to make plays with teammates who are much less capable than he’s used to of actually making the bucket. If he can average 6 assists, that would be a huge accomplishment. Ironically, such success may only speed his departure from our team.
He stays on the floor if: He gets defensive help from his paint mates, or Lowry is struggling.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.