Thought exercise: hanging on to Jose
The general assumption–the rational assumption–is that Jose Calderon will not be wearing a Toronto Raptors jersey when the regular season ends. Expiring contracts are currency in the NBA–usually the kind that lubricates transactions between bottom-feeders looking to pick up draft picks and prospects, while clearing cap space. In exchange the contending teams look to pick up solid veterans, usually to cover for an injury or add depth and experience for a playoff run.
We all know how this goes.
In five games replacing an injured Kyle Lowry in the starting lineup Calderon is averaging 13 assists versus 3.6 turnovers. He’s a solid veteran who protects the ball (mostly), finds open teammates and can knock down an open jumpshot. If we just go ahead and declare that yes, Jose Calderon is a backup point guard, how does he stack up against other players who fill his role–the Eric Maynors, the Steve Blakes, the Ramon Sessions’ of the NBA. With the possible exception of Maynor, you take Calderon over all of them. Imagine Jose in a place like San Antonio (just for instance). Don’t you think he’d thrive in that system as a backup to Tony Parker?
We’ve written glowingly about Calderon before, specifically his willingness to take on any role he’s asked to, and his professionalism in the face of periodic trade rumours. He’s a model basketball citizen (another reason contenders would love to get their hands on him).
Given Jose’s importance on a squad of greenhorns and apprentices, the question here is, is he worth hanging on to past this season? What is his market value among free agents? With DeMar DeRozan’s re-up, Toronto is going to have precious little room to maneuvre, unless they were to amnesty someone (oh say a mercurial seven-footer who can shoot the lights out The decision Bryan Colangelo will need to make is whether some of that money should go to reinforce the bench for a proven veteran like Calderon, new free agents, or to pay raises for rookie-scale players.
The question may be moot. Fans are already asking Doug Smith about this, and while he’s right to say there’s no point in talking an extension until the season’s over (assuming Calderon’s still in Toronto), it also seems like the cap is going to drop next year. And the new, tougher luxury tax provisions come into effect. So as much as some us might like to see Jose stick around, the odds are somewhere between slim and none.