It seems whenever you hear that chap Calderon’s name it’s either preceded or succeeded somewhere in the sentence by ‘terrible defender’, ‘hand-clapping defense’ or ‘hamstring’. Even the bloke himself agrees that he needs to avoid being penetrated so frequently. His coach has resigned himself to try and hide him by hoping that he can ‘play a defensive system’. That’s all peaches, but what about offense? We need a lot more from our 9 million dollar man than a few hollow assists.
His offensive game can be broken down in a few different roles:
The Quarterback: This is the Caldy most of us know. A risk averse guard who takes his sweet time getting the ball to the safest option on the court – Chris Bosh. If he’s not available, kick it out to the wing hoping that somebody has freed himself of off some half-ass screen and is open enough to give him an easy assist. This is the Calderon that doesn’t look for his shot, his first, second and third option is to pass and he’s not even thinking about turning the corner or popping a jumper using the screen. He’s the guy we saw most of last year and want to see less of next year. This role would be ideal for Jose if he were a backup, in fact, he’d be one of the safest backup options in the league if he stuck to this script. Unfortunately, he’s a starter and the responsibilities double if not triple when you’re in charge of the team.
The Creator: By creator I really mean creating shots for his mates that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Like, pretend an utterly shite player like Jason Kapono is hanging out at the wing where he’s got no business scoring. A creator will shift to his side of the court, break his man, show the ball enough that Kapono’s defender is both tempted and forced to help; at this point the creator will make a chest-high pass to Kapono for the open J. In this role your business is only to get people who can’t get their own shot, a shot. This is where you make lesser players look good enough to get contracts. This is the role that we wanted Jose to play last year when we had weak wing options like Kapono, Parker and Moon. Those players are leeches that rely on their point guard to feed them and Jose didn’t do much of that. Needless to say, this role can only be played by a point guard who can dribble penetrate, if not at will, then at least consistently enough to be considered a threat. We saw Jose play this role in 2007-08 when Ford went down but not since. Not since indeed.
TJ Ford Lite: You can never straighten a dog’s tail, but can you teach a PG who can’t run to run? Some might say those are equally hard propositions and Jose has done little to prove otherwise. His risk averse nature means that he’s programmed to take three dribbles after a defensive rebound before he even considers passing it up. Don’t believe me? Notice how many times his head is actually up staring directly at a flank option only to keep on dribbling as the opportunity evaporates. The post-Marion team last year was advertised as a run ‘n gun squad and we didn’t do enough of that (I believe Marion’s arm is still up begging for that pass). I’m not sure how much Triano will depend on the fast-break, but if history is to be believed, it’s better he not. If you ask him if the Raptors are going to be a running team he’ll give the safest answer which doesn’t put any pressure on Jose or commit to anything: We’ll run when the opportunity is there. I don’t think a PG needs to have Barbosa qualities and force his way into easy points when nothing’s imminent, but if TV viewers can notice you passing up easy points, then it’s a real problem.
Off the ball: He hasn’t had a chance to play with another PG so far. He played a bit with T.J Ford but the sample size for that experiment was too small to make anything of it. He played a little with Roko Ukic but that’s Roko Ukic. Not enough information to comment in this area but safe to say he’s going to be doing a lot more of this with Turkoglu around.
The Scorer: What happened to the guy who averaged 15 points, 10 assists and shot 55% from the field and 51% from three in January and February of 2007-08 go? Isn’t that really what his contract was awarded for? That’s the gritty, hard-nosed, leave-it-all-on-the-floor Jose Calderon that we grew to love. The one that played 37 minutes a game, didn’t break a sweat, robbed liquor stores and still wanted to take the big shot in the end. The one that could leave even the best defenses wondering how they could’ve been so late in guarding his turn off the high screen. The one which left the PG scratching his head wondering what to do since he got burned every time he went under, the one that made you pay for cheating off of him, that’s the Calderon I want back. I was talking to a Raptors fan over a few the other day and he told me that Calderon needs to have the offensive qualities of Deron Williams for us to be successful. I told him that his sixth beverage was taking a toll on his thinking when I realized he’s not that wrong and the gist of his argument is true: We need Jose Calderon to be a scorer as much a passer.
The top scoring PGs in the league all have either a physical or a quickness advantage on any given night. Let’s consider Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Devon Harris, Deron Williams, Chauncey Billups and Derrick Rose. What you’ll be surprised to know is that Jose Calderon at 210 lbs is heavier than any of those players. The closest anyone comes is Deron Williams at 207 lbs but he happens to have a much more developed body. At 6’3″ he’s as tall as any of that bunch with his height matching Rose, Billups, Williams and Harris. Quickness is a subjective issue and the best one can say is that the only players he could even come close to matching is Billups and Williams, the latter because of age and the former because of weight. He’s only younger than Chauncey Billups (33) and Tony Parker (by 5 months).
I wonder if asking Jose to be a scoring threat at this point in his career is too much. Whereas Williams dominates with his strength, Parker with his quickness, Harris with his speed and Billups with shot-making ability, Calderon’s niche on offense is much more hard to locate. He doesn’t have the craftiness to create his own shot like those players and has to rely a lot more on the set pieces making life easier for him. His money-maker so far has been a mid-range jumper and the occasional turn off the screen, not sure if we’re ever going to see anything beyond that from him.
Thoughts on where Calderon can get his points this year?