It’s hard to pinpoint where it’s coming from, but there has been considerable speculation about a trade which would send Jose Calderon trade to the Pacers. Michael Grange had reported this on July 14th and at that time Roy Hibbert was Colangelo’s apparent target. Recently Hoopsworld reported further interest in a trade so I’ll go ahead and believe for a second that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Whether Calderon is a better fit than Jack doesn’t matter very much at this point. Jack’s lower salary, better perceived defense, durability and ability to switch over to play the two in spots, puts him ahead of Calderon in the depth chart. His appearance at summer league had to have gone well with the club and his recent 7 pound weight drop and fitness routine has also got to be respected by the franchise.
What would we want in a Jose Calderon trade? I’d be willing to take a defensive center, a small-forward or another point guard. Since the Pacers are looking to cut costs and taking on Calderon goes completely against their current thinking, you would have to believe that any deal would see the Raptors taking on more salary, thus using their TPE. So you can throw out individual trades like Calderon for Dunleavy out the window, especially since the latter is an expiring contract valued at $10.5M. Same goes for Troy Murphy, who is expiring at $12M. The Pacers have a lot of faith in A.J Price, but he’s not ready to start just yet, and it is conceivable that they’d want him to be Calderon’s understudy of sorts for a season or two, but that alone isn’t worth it for them.
If the Pacers are looking to cut costs, the only way a Calderon deal makes sense is if they’re willing to trade Danny Granger, one of only two pacers (Dahntay Jones) to have a guaranteed contract beyond 2011-12. Whereas Calderon is owed $29.2M through 2012-13, Granger is owed $49.9M through 2013-14. Granger has missed 35 games over the last two season and Calderon has missed 28; it’s safe to say both have had trouble staying on the floor, but you can actually make a case that Calderon is the more valuable player. In Granger’s five season in Indiana, the team has made the playoffs once, losing in the first round. The win totals in those five seasons are also disappointing: 41, 35, 36, 36 and 32.
With the NBA lockout looming, teams would be reluctant to take on a contract like him; even if you leave that aside, it’s difficult to sell him as a player because he’s shown very little other than being a good player on a bad team. At this point in his career, you can argue that he’s either reached his ceiling or is very close to it and no team would take him on expecting him to improve on what he’s already shown. That’s close to $50M for an injury-prone player who hoists seven more shots than anybody on his team while the team racks up mid-30s win totals. If the Pacers are to truly rebuild, can they afford to have a player like him on the roster? They can’t, but it makes sense for the Colangelo-led Raptors.
If Colangelo is aiming for a quick fix or a way to revitalize interest in Raptors basketball, all he has to do is acquire Granger and the fans will love him. We already have fond memories of Granger because we passed on him twice, once in favor of Joey Graham, so getting him now would be like the prodigal son returning home. Colangelo could sell him as part of the “Young Gunz” package and tomorrow we’d be talking about making a run at the fourth seed. Talking that is, not actually doing it. Throw in Roy Hibbert, a young center with that dreaded word ‘potential’, and you could even say the Raptors won the deal and used their TPE most wisely. Colangelo would make a big splash in the summer market just like he has in the last two. The Raptors would have a starting five of: Bargnani, Johnson, Granger, DeRozan and Jack; backing them up would be Hibbert, Davis, Weems, Belinelli and Barbosa. On paper, that reads like a solid core which you can sell some season tickets on.
With seven expiring contracts the Pacers are in rebuild mode, and the final piece of the puzzle for them could be shipping off Danny Granger so that they can lose 60 games, get a high pick and go from there. From their perspective, they just shed $20M in salary which is a lot in today’s economic climate, even if it happens to be over four years. Calderon’s overpaid, but his contract could be considered reasonable by a team who’s looking to get some stability and become more conservative in the back-court, especially in a year or two, so it is possible that the Pacers could parlay him into something else down the road. There’s a good chance that as Granger goes older, he’s going to become more injury prone. It’s a trade-off the Pacers could be willing to make, and more importantly, so could Colangelo.