NBA TV analyst Kenny Smith recently opined that Jose Calderon is a "good backup point guard," nothing more. I disagree. Consider:
- Calderon proved last season that he's not only a capable starter, but a very good one.
- He has improved his game each season (see career stats and Player Efficiency Ratings).
- In the previous two seasons, even with a healthy T.J. Ford in the lineup, Calderon played key fourth-quarter minutes.
- So far this season, as the undisputed starter, he ranks first in the NBA in free-throw percentage (PERFECT) and assists per turnover (4.79), second in assists per game (9.6) and third in assists per 48 minutes (12.7), as well as top-40 in three-point field-goal percentage (0.422) and efficiency (19.24).
Further, we have this glowing review by NBA coach George Karl:
"He's a true point, he cares about the point," Karl said. "We talk about Chris Paul and Deron Williams and they deserve to be talked about and this kid's not very far behind them.
"Calderon is very John Stockton-like," Karl said, comparing the Raptor to the retired Utah legend. "Eighty per cent of his team's decisions are made by his pass. As an open shooter, he makes big-time shots. He puts his team first."
Why should anyone still doubt Calderon's ability? Perhaps the problem is his defence. Everyone from media to fans to Kevin Garnett have questioned Calderon's ability to defend his position. Is it really that bad? Has he improved in this area over the years?
Here are select categories of his opponent's 48-minute production in each of his three full seasons:
Season One (2005/06, rookie year):
eFG% = 0.521
iFG = 27%
Pts = 21.3
PER = 18.3
Season Two (2006/07):
eFG% = 0.491
iFG = 23%
Pts = 19.4
PER = 16.2
Season Three (2007/08):
eFG% = 0.505
iFG = 28%
Pts = 18.3
PER = 16.8
While there is overall improvement since his first season - opponent PER 16.8 vs. 18.3 - that's still above-average production from his man. In fact, some other categories - points, field-goal attempts from inside and effective field-goal percentage - have worsened since Season Two. Why might that be?
It has been said that defence is a function of effort. While no one would doubt Calderon's willingness to defend, he may not have as much energy to execute. Considering that his average minutes jumped from 21 in Season Two to 30.3 in Season Three, that's understandable. And currently, he plays 36.4 minutes per game, ranking 30th in the NBA. Perhaps this is another reason for the Raptors to acquire a better backup point guard: to leave Calderon more energy to play at the defensive end.
Defence also requires a knowledge of the opponent, which is gained through scouting reports and playing experience. With three years under his belt, shouldn't Calderon be better at this, abounding with energy or not?
Yes, Jose Calderon deserves to be grouped with the best starting point guards in the NBA. He will get more respect when he improves his defence. What exactly is wrong with his D? How might he improve? Please comment.
Jeff Wong, one of the best Raptors' analysts has written in The Score or Hoops Addict. Now he colaborates with some NBA blogs, and he runs his own: Pete Marasmitch