The Raptors Point Guard Dilemma

Posted on November 18, 2010 | 13 Comments

So the Raptors get a win against Philadelphia and, this time, Jose Calderon becomes the PG of the hour for the Raptors, making up for the poor game he had in the loss against Washington. This time it was Jack who had the horrible game, in fact in the last 3 games he’s had 2 bad ones. Not surprisingly, some people are now questioning whether Calderon should be starting and Jack coming off the bench.

The Raptors wouldn’t be the Raptors if there wasn’t some questions surrounding the PG position. I think the last time the Raptors were truly at peace with their point guard situation for an extended period was when Damon Stoudemire was playing in the Skydome. After him, Alvin Williams who, while a gritty player, was not nearly as good as fans seem to remember him (and wasn’t healthy for very long), which is why the Raptors tried a couple of times to replace him, once with Mark Jackson for 54 games. Then a parade of guys like Jalen Rose, Rafer Alston and Mike James came through, all not nearly as talented as they thought themselves to be.

When Charlie Villaneuva was traded for T.J. Ford, it looked like the long drought was over. Ford was a lightening quick, 23 year old PG that was locked in a battle for the starting position in Milwaukee with Mo Williams. He was a pass-first, feisty jet quick player and the type of PG that seemed to possess leadership qualities you want in your lead guard. He seemed to be exactly what the Raptors needed and looked like the long term solution for the Raptors at PG.

And then Jose Calderon came out of nowhere to become a legitimate NBA player who pushed Ford for the starting position, eventually winning out the next season. Of course, Jose’s reign didn’t last long before he started to struggle and Jarrett Jack was brought in and eventually replaced him as the starter.

So now, the Raptors have two PGs who are pretty good, but neither is really an above average starting PG at this point. At least not consistently.

Now, I have been a big believer from the beginning that Calderon should start ahead of Jack. In my opinion, you want your starting PG to be able to make other players better, and Calderon simply does that better than Jack.

I have to be clear that I was a big fan of the Raptors signing Jack and I still am. I just think he is being asked to do more than he should. Ideally, Jack is a backup PG who can also play some SG if needed. Right now, he’s a character actor being asked to carry a movie, and he can’t do it.

A lot has been talked about Calderon’s contract. I don’t think anyone would argue against the fact that Calderon is being overpaid. When he was offered the contract, he was coming off a stellar last few months and looked like he might have the ability to become an All-Star. Pat Riley and Miami were interested in signing him but the Raptors made the decision to trade TJ Ford and hand the reigns over to him. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to live up to the promise he had when he signed the contract. But I digress…

During the summer, and it got a lot louder during the preseason, there were a lot of calls for Calderon to get traded and he almost was, at one point. While I didn’t have a problem with the almost-trade, I never felt that moving him should have been a big priority.

And while Calderon’s contract is rather onerous, it’s not exactly a big problem for the Raptors. They aren’t in a position where they need to clear salaries, and even with his contract, will have plenty of cap room next summer. Besides, I never like trying to trade a player when his value is down, and Calderon’s value wasn’t very high during the summer. If Calderon can put together a good season, his value should be much higher, especially with one year less on his contract.

It’s not that I think Calderon is the long term solution at point guard for the Raptors, but when a team loses it’s best scorer and doesn’t really have anyone on the roster that has been known to create his own shots, having a PG that can pass the ball and run an offense is probably a plus.

If you’re going to trade one of the PGs, it seems to me that Jack would be the more sensible choice. He’s got more value, due to the fact that he’s younger, has a manageable contract, is more durable that Calderon and can play two positions. Plus, as I mentioned above, I’d rather have a true PG leading this team than a combo guard who doesn’t make his teammates better, especially when you’ve got so many young players who are still developing their game.

The big problem with the Raptors, though, is that neither PG is who you want ultimately leading the team. There have been numerous calls for Colangelo to trade one of them and get a long term solution at PG. There are two problems with that solution. The first is that there aren’t exactly a whole lot of good, young PGs on the market. And the last thing the Raptors need to do is be in a hurry to do anything right now. No trade is going to “save the season” for the Raptors. Any realistic Raptor fan should have known before the season started what lay ahead for the team. This was not a playoff bound team and the big goal at the finish line this year was going to be a high draft pick. If the Raptors were able to somehow secure a good, young PG, what happens if they end up with the best player available being a PG, like Kyrie Irving?

While the Raptors PG position might be a weakness, in some ways, it’s also a strength. The whole idea of having two PGs so close in talent is that they can cover for one another. If Jack has a bad game, Calderon can pick up the slack and visa versa. If Calderon had been traded, who would have covered for Jack against Philadelphia? Marcus Banks, despite what a few fans seem to think, is not the answer.

What the Raptors need to do with their PGs is simply let them play out the season. If they draft a PG in the draft, THEN they can make a trade, but there’s no point in doing it until then.

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  • Al

    I have no problem with who is the starter, while the best of them is finishing the game it’s all right for me.

    Agree with you that it’s a strength. Also, it’s nice that both of them can accept it without drama in spite of they don’t like it.

    It’s going to be interesting this offseason for the Raptors.

  • JoePanini

    Calderon has been playing better. Jack is clearly no leader but I don’t think we should trade either.

    As long as the better player in the game is on the floor at the right time I’m fine with both og them playing. Who starts isn’t even important.

    I think Calderon has been playing better, and as I said in the summer in my first ever thread on RR, I thought Calderon playing more than Jack would help this team. Many think Calderon isn’t good because he is overshadowed by his contract. But as he already HAS that contract, the best thing to do is act as if Jack and Jose earn the same amount and chose who you think is better. And I think overall Jose is far better. Especially as a guy who needs to distribute to our many offensive assets. Jack doesn’t really find the player that often leaving hot players without the ball in many situations. I’ve seen Bargnani, Weems and DeRozan left out of the offense when they were the only ones creating (different games btw)

    Also he has been a big reason for Bargnani on some nights, and other players as well not getting the ball in situations in which they should have.

    Anyways, no comment on Bargnani’s game? What did I tell you, Bargnani with great offense will win us far more games than Bargnani with decent offense and “okay” defense. His defense was once again less than decent, but his offense with Weems clearly won us this one.

    Oh, and I was also right about how when Bargnani plays well nearly no one praises him, or anything, yet when he gets 2 boards and 12 points he gets 5 threads about it….

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    One of Bryan Colangelo’s many personnel mistakes was the signing of Jarrett Jack, two summers ago, to a contract which paid him in excess of $4.0 M per year, to be the Raptors “back-up” PG, in arrears of Jose Calderon.

    This was money poorly spent by the Raptors’ President/GM.

    How come?

    Because what a top notch NBA GM would have done instead is sign a solid, relatively inexpensive veteran player, in this specific role, e.g. like an Earl Watson [who was also available at the time], not a player with the skill-set of Jarrett Jack.

    The reason the Raptors are now in the situation which they find themselves is because of a compilation of poor personnel moves similar to this one, concerning the back-up PG position.

  • Al

    Khandor, Raptors paid for Jack that much so the Pacers couldn’t afford it. And when José had to play injured (harmstring) almost all the season we learnt the need for a valid back up.

    I just don’t get those poor personel moves:

    Jermaine O’Neal: You was trading TJ (neck issues)for him. After that, O’Neal was easily traded, TJ not.

    Turkoglu: the first option was Ariza but the guy didn’t accept our offer (it was said it was near the 8 Millions). Turkoglu was traded after one season for Barbosa.

    Do you realize that there are some franchises that people don’t wanna go to? Do you think other GM would have got better things?

    IMO, BC is doing all what it’s possible.

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Al,

    When the Raptors signed Jack away from Indiana, for a pricey contract, the Pacers turned around and signed Earl Watson, for a very reasonable contract.

    If a GM truly believes that Jose Calderon is the starting PG for his team … which is what signing him to a $8.0 M/year contract actually represents … then, what that GM should not do is push the panic button and sign a $4.0 M/year player as his “back-up”, when there is a much more affordable and viable option available at the exact same time.

    For a prime example, please what the Utah Jazz are doing so far this season with the following 3 players on their roster at this same position:

    i. Deron Williams [$15.0 M/yr]
    ii. Ronnie Price [$1.4 M/yr]
    iii. Earl Watson [$0.9 M/yr]

    When you compare the production that the Raptors are getting from their 3 players at this same position:

    i. Jarrett Jack [$4.6 M/yr]
    ii. Jose Calderon [$9.0 M/yr, who SHOULD really be the starter]
    iii. Marcus Banks [$4.8 M/yr]

    it should then be painfully obvious just how inept Bryan Colangelo is as a top flight GM in the NBA, in comparison with his counterpart in Salt Lake City.

    One thing that Bryan Colangelo has consistently shown with the Raptors is that he does not use his money wisely … in terms of being able to gradually construct a team that is capable of making steady progress towards the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com Tim W.

    Al,

    That’s definitely true about who finishes. I think far too much attention is being paid to who is starting when it doesn’t really matter.

    JoePanini,

    I just wanted to write the post and go to bed. I didn’t talk much about the game at all, but Bargnani did have a good game- for him. He was still horrible on defense. The fact is that he pretty much has to score 30 ppg in order to make up for him being a liability elsewhere. What’s funny, though, is I was going to mention that Bargnani would probably end up going 30 and 6, which would make everyone forget about the bad games. Then he went 30 and 7. Quite frankly, unless Bargnani becomes a completely different player, I’m never going to want him as a part of my team.

    khandor,

    There were several reasons I liked the signing of Jack.

    a) His contract isn’t bad at all. He’s not making the veteran’s minimum, but his contract is not so much that a team is going to think twice about taking it on.

    b) Deron Williams has proven he can play heavy minutes and stay healthy. Calderon has not. If anything came of the season before Jack was signed, it’s that the Raptors needed much better backup PG play, and a backup PG that could play 20-30 minutes, if needed.

    c) Most importantly, Jack gives the Raptors an asset that can be used later. Earl Watson is a nice, veteran PG, but he’s not an asset, and certainly not one that might increase in value. The important thing right now is to acquire as many assets as possible. That’s the reason I liked the signing of Kleiza, too. He’s a young asset.

    And while I like Utah, I don’t agree with everything they’ve done. I thought getting Al Jefferson was a bad move. Right now, they’re paying nearly $30 million for the PF and C positions, and there isn’t one perennial All-Star among them. That’s why they can’t afford to pay much for their backup PG position.

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    The Jazz are “choosing” not to pay very much for their back-up PG … which is very different than saying that they “cannot afford to pay too much” for a better player at this crucial position.

    IMO, Utah has the proper balance at the PG spot, aying big money for their starter and not very much money to their primary back-up [i.e. Ronnie Price] or his veteran emergency replacement [i.e. Earl Watson].

    The problem for the Raptors wasn’t just the existence of Calderon on the payroll already but, also, the acquisition of an albatross like Marcus Banks.

    i.e. if the Raptors didn’t already have Banks on the roster, as well, then, it might have been considered an okay thing for Colangelo to have added a 2nd PG, at a cost of $4.0+ M/yr to the team’s payroll, but with a dud like Barnks on-board already it was simply overkill on the GM’s part, in an effort to cover up for the mistake that was the trading of Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon to Miami in exchange for the short-lived career of Shawn Marion as a Raptor.

    If you recall … I was someone who said, in advance, that:

    * The deal to bring O’Neal to Toronto was a bad move
    * The deal to bring Marion * Banks to Toronto was a bad move
    * The deal to bring Jack to Toront was a bad deal, if the team was also going to hold onto Calderon AND Banks
    * The deal to bring Turkoglu to Toronto was a bad deal

    As it’s turned out, I was right on each account, much to my my chagrin.

  • http://www.wearingfilm.com Tim W.

    Well, I’m pretty sure if Calderon was as good as Deron Williams, the Raptors wouldn’t need Jack. I think we can both agree he’s not.

    As for having Banks, Jack and Calderon on the roster, I don’t think it’s really much of a hindrance. Banks is gone after this season, and if the Raptors draft a PG, it’s likely Calderon or Jack will be, too. If the Raptors draft a PG and keep Jack, that suddenly cuts their salary at the PG position down to $6 or 7 million.

    As for your conclusions on trades, I don’t entirely agree. I think getting O’Neal was a gamble, but not necessarily a bad move. It didn’t work but that’s not really due to the trade.

    I wasn’t a fan of the Marion deal, but I don’t think it was a bad move. It cleared enough cap room for Colangelo to be able to sign a big name free agent. Unfortunately that free agent was Turkgolu. Turkoglu certainly wasn’t Colangelo’s first or even second choice, but it was the one he was able to get.

    You can’t look at decisions in a bell jar. There is a reality around decisions that are made, and things are not black and white. And whether you like to believe it or not, things like luck, location and other things do come into play. If San Antonio drafted second when Tim Duncan came out, San Antonio’s future would have been different. If Len Bias hadn’t died, Boston’s future would have been different. If Portland decided that Clyde Drexler and Michael Jordan could have played together both Portland and Chicago’s future would have been different.

    Miami hit it big this offseason, but if Wade had decided to sign elsewhere, it would have ended up being a disaster. You can’t predict the future, you can only make an educated guess.

  • JoePanini

    I really like reading arguments between Khandor and Tim. :)

  • http://khandorssportsblog.com/wordpress khandor

    Tim,

    ——————-
    re: “Well, I’m pretty sure if Calderon was as good as Deron Williams, the Raptors wouldn’t need Jack. I think we can both agree he’s not.”
    ——————-

    Although “if” is a small two-letter word, it’s ramifications can be gigantic for the way one’s life actually develops.

    If Jose Calderon had the opportunity to play for the Utah Jazz and Jerry Sloan, and Deron Williams had the misfortune of being drafted by the Toronto Raptors, and Bryan Colangelo, who is to say that the latter would be perceived by most NBA observers today to have developed into one of the very best PG’s in the NBA and the former into one of the most efficient offensive players but a liability at the defensive end of the floor.

    Contrary to a popular belief …

    Who a player has the chance to play for does have a tremendous role to play in the way said player gets to develop as a basketball player over the course of his career.

    ——————-
    re: “As for having Banks, Jack and Calderon on the roster, I don’t think it’s really much of a hindrance. Banks is gone after this season, and if the Raptors draft a PG, it’s likely Calderon or Jack will be, too. If the Raptors draft a PG and keep Jack, that suddenly cuts their salary at the PG position down to $6 or 7 million.”
    ——————-

    Nothing in this life is ever “too much” of a hinderance that it cannot ever be overcome with a combination of hard work, considerable skill, and a healthy dose of good fortune.

    This fact does not preclude it also being reality that the Raptors may have been able to hold onto Chris Bosh … i.e. their franchise player … if they would have developed differently over the last 2 seasons … e.g. into a Top 4 team in the East … which would have been a stronger possibility if Toronto did not have Jarrett Jack [i.e. and over-priced "back-up" PG, and a decent value "starting" PG] and Marcus Banks [i.e. a financial "albatross" as a 3rd-string PG] needlessly weighing down their roster at the #1 position in arrears of a good but-far-from-great PG making $8.0+ M/yr.

    ——————-
    re: “As for your conclusions on trades, I don’t entirely agree.”
    ——————-

    As it is with most things concerning the Raptors …

    You and I do tend to agree with one another more than we actually disagree; it’s usually only to a matter of what degree. :-)

    ——————-
    re:
    “I think getting O’Neal was a gamble, but not necessarily a bad move. It didn’t work but that’s not really due to the trade.”
    ——————-

    That’s like saying you would still be in love with your wife today if, when you met her for the first time she was actually a blond rather than a brunette, which is not the case at all, since the unfortunate reality is, you have no clue about this because – the simple fact of the matter is that – she was a brunette at the time.

    The trade for Jermaine O’Neal was a bad trade for the Toronto Raptors, pure and simple.

    - Roy Hibbert is the Starting Center for the Pacers and Nathan Jawai is no longer an active player in the NBA

    - TJ Ford is still a productive NBA PG

    - Jermaine O’Neal was a productive member of the Miami Heat last season; and is a productive member of the best team in the East, so far this season

    - While The Raptors were unable to re-sign Chris Bosh this past summer

    That’s the definition of a failed trade in the NBA which has calamitous ramifications for one struggling franchise and puts the other participant back into a state of semi-relevance, as a non-laughing stock entity across the league, in general.

    ——————-
    re: “I wasn’t a fan of the Marion deal, but I don’t think it was a bad move. It cleared enough cap room for Colangelo to be able to sign a big name free agent. Unfortunately that free agent was Turkgolu. Turkoglu certainly wasn’t Colangelo’s first or even second choice, but it was the one he was able to get.”
    ——————-

    The same holds true for this disasterous acquisition of 2 summers ago … which was bad from the beginning and doomed to be a failure.

    [i.e. any top flight NBA analyst truly worth their salt sh/would have been able to tell Bryan Colangelo from the outset that a line-up of Calderon/PG + DeRozan/OG + Turkoglu/SF + Bosh/PF + Bargnani/C was going to be a defensive disaster.]

    To paraphrase an imfamous quote from the likes of Sean Avery: “Making do with ‘sloppy seconds’ is no way to live one’s own life in the best fashion imaginable.”

    ——————-
    re:
    “You can’t look at decisions in a bell jar.
    ——————-

    Good … because that is not the way in which I am looking at them.

    It’s the compilation of these separate moves which, when you combine them together with one another, has put this franchise into its current state of delapidation.

    That type of analysis does not involve looking at each of them in a “bell jar” but, rather, in a way which is consistent with “string theory.”

    I think you can see the difference between these two divergent ways of thinking about the world in which we live everyday. :-)

    ——————-
    re: “There is a reality around decisions that are made, and things are not black and white. And whether you like to believe it or not, things like luck, location and other things do come into play. If San Antonio drafted second when Tim Duncan came out, San Antonio’s future would have been different. If Len Bias hadn’t died, Boston’s future would have been different. If Portland decided that Clyde Drexler and Michael Jordan could have played together both Portland and Chicago’s future would have been different.”
    ——————-

    There is an old saying that, in this world: “Luck is the residue of design.”

    As we’ve discussed before … you don’t happen to believe that this is the case, while I do.

    We can just agree to disagree about it. :-)

    ——————-
    re: Miami hit it big this offseason, but if Wade had decided to sign elsewhere, it would have ended up being a disaster. You can’t predict the future, you can only make an educated guess.
    ——————-

    Maybe you, and others, cannot predict the future, in the NBA; but, please, do not put me into the same category as you, in this specific regard … when it comes to assessing certain things accurately, in advance, related to this wonderful game of basketball … since part of my everyday reality involves doing precisely that for my livelihood. :-)

    Cheers, as always.

  • Al

    Sorry for the delay.

    I agree with Tim in his answers, I’d just like to show my point of view on these points (sorry if I’m wrong in any fact, my memory can fail):

    * The deal to bring O’Neal to Toronto was a bad move”

    No, the deal to trade TJ out of Toronto was very good, guy was becoming a problem with his attitude (me first) and had serious problems with his neck, besides the team performance was better with Calderon.

    Jermaine was a bet on a big man star with a lot of injuries behind him. It didn’t work, but his huge contract was still tradeable cause it only last one more season. Look at Indiana, they cannot trade TJ now.

    “* The deal to bring Marion * Banks to Toronto was a bad move”

    It was clear that O’Neal didn’t work well with Bosh, so we had to move him. You can say the same with Marion and Wade in Miami (that’s what I’m remembering, could be wrong) so was the same kind of trade for both teams: trading players past his prime time that didn’t work with their stars and getting some help in their weakest areas, Toronto needed some defense at the perimeter and Miami some scoring from their frontcourt.

    Marion was the best player of both and had a cheaper contract, so Miami put Banks in the trade. That was the price we had to pay, plain and simple.

    “* The deal to bring Jack to Toront was a bad deal, if the team was also going to hold onto Calderon AND Banks”
    “If Jose Calderon had the opportunity to play for the Utah Jazz and Jerry Sloan, and Deron Williams had the misfortune of being drafted by the Toronto Raptors, and Bryan Colangelo, who is to say that the latter would be perceived by most NBA observers today to have developed into one of the very best PG’s in the NBA and the former into one of the most efficient offensive players but a liability at the defensive end of the floor.”

    First, I’m Spaniard, your not going to meet any Raptors fan who thinks higher on José. José isn’t your worst defender, trust me, I would like to know who PG stops other PGs, it’s imposible, you just direct them where your frontcourt can stop them. José could go the hoop a lot of more times and his defender could not stop him, the problem are the big guys who are well placed on his way to the hoop. That works too for the PGs that play against us.

    And it’s curious, but you don’t need that “if”: Jazz had one of the best Spanish PGs in his team, Raul Lopez (at that time he was as good as Calde, both were in the National Team at the same time). Two knee surgeries after, Deron arrived and that was the end of the story.

    Harmstrings aren’t knee surgeries, but they need a lot of time to health and can come back, so after having to play with and injured Calderon on the court because your next best PG was Parker (love the guy, but he isn’t a PG), it was clear we needed a quality backup PG.

    Banks isn’t that guy, so Jack was the chosen one (the one we could get at the market). Also, you don’t hold onto Banks, you just cannot trade his contract (4 or 5 millions for a 3rd string, a very good one and not a bad 2nd for some minutes, but still a bad contract)

    And you don’t trade a player when his value is down (José).

    * The deal to bring Turkoglu to Toronto was a bad deal

    Ok, you remember that guy, Bosh, whose contract was finishing and wanted to win: BC has never stopped trying to put a good team around him.

    It’s said that Raptors offered 8 millions for Ariza and the guy said no (in LA Barnes contract is 2 or 3 times cheaper than it would have been here), so the next wing they could get was Turkoglu. BC pulled a big trade, 4 teams I think. That year we were stuck with our cap space and that trade was almost magic.

    Turkoglu, well, it was a fraud, no more words needed on him. But still BC could trade him for a good SG, Barbosa.

    And now let me add some more:

    “Anthony Parker and Garbajosa signing”

    Cheap and they worked, it was a pity that Jorge injuried his leg, we could have got to the 2nd round IMO and build around it.

    “Drafting Bargnani”

    Lamarcus Aldrigde it’s the same kind of big man without the 3 point range, and Brandon Roy knees are bone to bone right now. It looks that it wasnt that bad drafting after all.

    It isn’t just what you get, it’s also what you give, and the difference was always positive for the Raptors. Also, GMs make trades or not and the players play or not. Don’t judge a GM for what the players don’t do when they are done it before.

    The other option would be a GM as Larry Bird, that don’t make any bets … look at the Pacers …

  • Al

    * have done it before

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