I still haven’t figured out whether the 2007 division title was won because we had a good team or whether the rest of division was just out taking a piss. I still like to give credit to the team before taking into account Boston, New York and Philadelphia’s pathetic seasons. The defining aspect of that season was the PG play of Jose Calderon and T.J Ford, it was a constant advantage for the Raptors on any given night when they weren’t playing the Suns. The PG spot had the highest positional PER for us that year at 19.9 and even though Ford was hit with injuries the year after, the PG play still remained strong and registered a PER of 21.5. Could Jarrett Jack mean the return of PG dominance in Toronto?
Well, no. See, Calderon and Ford complemented each other in a way Jack and Calderon never can. Ford played at an entirely different pace than Jose and set the tone early using his speed, agility and quickness to throw off defenses. As much as some hated him, he had a one-on-one game which allowed him to create without the help of a screen which always kept defenses on their feet and forced them to pay close attention to a second player on the team (Bosh being the other). When Calderon stepped in, the game turned into a half-court affair with his turn-the-corner speed off the high pick becoming a resourceful weapon along with a mid-range jumper used only when the defender went under, something he improved as the season went along. One was a risk-taker who feared nothing and took his chances, the other a pragmatist who always chose the careful option but could burn you if you didn’t respect him. Defenses had to deal with two very different problems and through it was our advantage.
Had those two learned to play together and figured out that they’re perfect complementary players things would’ve been a lot different right now. As it stands, Jack is brought in to back-up Calderon but the scenario is very different than Forderon. Jack doesn’t have the motor Ford had, much like Calderon he tends to settle into the half-court game and take his chances running sets which he doesn’t like to deviate from. If called upon to do so he can take his man one-on-one in a bullish fashion but it’s nothing compared to Ford’s ability to penetrate in his prime. The same can be said for Calderon, he’ll never be known for his ability to break down his defender but will always look to run the coach’s play first before taking matters into his own hands – conservative to say the least. Neither player is known for their drive-and-kick skill but both possess solid mid-range games (Jack 45% and Calderon 50% FG last season). The overlap in their respective offensive games is such that it shouldn’t really matter who is playing, other than Jack’s slashing ability they’re far more similar on offense than different. When they’re playing with the other four starters it’ll be like having a steady, consistent PG play rather than the roller-coaster ride that was Forderon.
Jack should be playing with the starters as much as Calderon which is likely since teams rarely make 5 for 5 subs thus putting out a pure second unit. However, there will be times in the second quarter when he’ll be asked to play alongside Wright, Rasho, Evans and Delfino. Unless you have a team that executes exceptionally well you’re going to struggle to score and this is where we’ll need Jack to emulate Ford’s ability to score in bunches. Nobody’s asking him to be Mike James II but he’ll need to be far more assertive here than when playing with Bosh and Turkoglu. Ford recognized that need (sometimes to a fault), question is whether Jack can be “the man” on the floor for a few minutes a game. Last year we saw how sad we were when Will Solomon or Roko Ukic were thrust into that role and Jack should be better. Actually, if he can make an entry-pass into the post without wetting his pants he’s already done good.
Calderon and Ford were both mediocre defenders when they were in Toronto, the latter’s size was an issue and the former’s quickness. I remember Mitchell doing a decent job of hiding Ford’s size so we never really felt like he was being exploited. It’s always harder to hide lateral quickness so most of us only remember Calderon being attacked at the point which isn’t very fair to him. They were both bad. In the Jack/Calderon combo, Jack is the far superior defender while Jose is supposed to be the more refined offensive player. I strongly believe that we need to be proactive when analyzing PG match-ups, if there is a hint that Calderon is not upto the defensive assignment against the other starting PG, insert Jack immediately and let them switch roles for that game. Last year Calderon was getting exploited in the first quarter while Triano looked on only because the usual Calderon first quarter rest point of 10 minutes wasn’t here yet. Sure, Roko struggled offensively but he was still better at plugging a hole; my point is that there’s no reason to follow the script with Calderon and Jack.
The equation has also changed with DeRozan/Wright replacing Parker who often demanded a pass after running off of baseline screens. Calderon might struggle finding cutters to the hoop but he is excellent at picking out open perimeter players through quick-hits, skip-passes and the pick ‘n pop. He dominated the ball last year while waiting for plays like these to develop, to some extent it was needed since he was one of the few who could handle the role but this year his role will have changed. Turkoglu will see a lot of the ball at the start of the possession forcing Calderon to play off the ball, something he is not good at. Jack on the other hand is known to slash, bump and bruise without the ball and loves physical contact. While he doesn’t have Calderon’s three-point shooting ability, he could provide the cutting options needed when Turkoglu drives to create.
In fact, a lineup of Calderon (spot-up three), Jack (slasher, mid-range jumper), DeRozan (slasher, rebounder), Bosh (mid-range jumper or offensive rebounder) and Turkoglu (ball-handler) could be an ideal offensive unit which combines rebounding, shot-making and penetration. The idea is that the projected starting lineup is not necessarily the best Raptors unit out there and we should be using the most effective group of guys; often times that will mean playing Jack and Calderon together, something that previous coaches rarely did with Calderon and his backup.
Here’s another scenario: As Colangelo pointed out a couple days ago, DeRozan will determine how much Jack plays. I’d like to add it’ll also determine where he plays. If we sign Delfino and he becomes a staple as the backup for Turkoglu it would basically take up all the minutes at the SF. Right now expecting Wright to hold his own defensively and hoping that DeRozan can provide an offensive punch while not being a defensive liability. If DeRozan and Wright can do the same as Turkoglu/Delfino, Jack’s SG role (he played 48% of his minutes there last year) will quickly be diminished and he’ll be a strict backup for Calderon. Calderon played 34 minute a game last year which proved to be too much, the year before that he was at 30 which seemed more ideal. Assuming he goes back to 30 minutes a night it leaves 18 minutes for Jack, would that be good utilization? I’m starting to think the fight for SG minutes isn’t going to be between DeRozan and Jack, it’ll be between Wright and Jack, especially if we sign Delfino.
So those are my thoughts at 2:24AM. I think I’ll post this. Forgive me if I didn’t make any sense.