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Why the Dallas Mavericks Signed Jose Calderon

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Why the Dallas Mavericks Signed Jose Calderon
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
People were a bit confused when the Mavericks signed Jose Calderon, but a closer look suggests it might be a prudent move.

The Mavericks had a plan heading into this offseason. They were going to use their ample cap room to go after an A-list free agent like Dwight Howard or Chris Paul.

As we all know, Plan A didn't work out so well. No marquee free agents went to Dallas, and the team ended up signing guys like Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon instead.

Those moves led to people scratching their heads. In a season where many teams seemed to be in tank mode, why would the Mavs sign a guy like Calderon? Well, it's certainly not because they want to lose. Owner Mark Cuban made that very clear in his recent post on Blog Maverick.

Calderon brings things to the table that the Mavericks like, and after some investigating, the move isn't as much of a wild card as it looked when it was announced.

His biggest strength is his passing ability.

For his career, Calderon averages nine assists per 36 minutes. He also averages just 2.2 turnovers per 36 minutes.

So, over his career, he has a ridiculous 4/1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

This means he's not only a terrific assist man, but a smart one as well. He can throw the no-look pass that makes the crowd ooh and ah, but he can also refrain from making a boneheaded turnover.

Even though his name doesn't carry the same weight as a Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo, Calderon is one of the league's best passers.

In the 2012-2013 season, Calderon's 8.6 assists per 36 minutes were good for sixth in the league, putting him ahead of guys like Tony Parker and Deron Williams.

He was also seventh in the league in assist percentage (the percentage of team field goals a player assisted on while playing), with an impressive ratio of 39.8.

Calderon is really a floor general in every sense of the word. He runs the offense, distributes the ball well, only takes eight shots a game and doesn't turn the ball over. From that aspect, he's great.

And on a team with guys like Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki, that kind of style works very well.

Both those players are going to need their shots and both would benefit from having a point guard who can set them up. Dirk needs his post passes and Ellis loves to cut to the basket. Having a veteran like Calderon makes both of their jobs easier.

As great of a passer as Calderon is, he might be an even better shooter.

Off the top of your head, do you know who led the NBA in three-point percentage in 2012-13? Kyle Korver? Stephen Curry? Steve Nash?

It was Calderon, at 46.1 percent. It was no fluke either, as he took 282 threes.

He also shot 49.1 percent from the field and 90 percent from the line. Last year was the third time in his career that he shot better than 49 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the line. 

This suggests he's one of the best shooters in the game. 

His true shooting percentage, which takes into account threes and free throws, was 61.6 percent. That was good for 10th in the NBA.

With shooting so highly valued in today's NBA, that skill is an extremely valuable one. 

Especially on the Mavericks. Dirk needs space to work and having a deadly shooter like Calderon on the floor opens up room for Nowitzki.

Combine Calderon's elite shooting with his skills as a passer and you have an offensive maestro. He also has the advanced stats to back up that title.

Calderon's offensive win shares, which measure the number of wins a player's offense is worth, were 6.6 for the 2012-13 season. That was 13th in the NBA, ahead of players like Dwyane Wade and Marc Gasol.

Now, as amazing as Calderon is at certain things, he has his problems. Calderon isn't a good defender and, according to 82 Games, the Pistons were five points better per 100 possessions with him off the court. So that's a big negative.

He's also limited in certain ways on offense. He can really shoot and distribute, but he's a horrible driver—partly because he's not especially fast, quick or athletic. He's really just a jump-shooter, as evidenced by 83 percent of his shots last season being jump shots.

But the Mavericks have recently had success with a point guard very similar to Calderon.

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Jason Kidd wasn't a superior athlete by the time he made it to the Mavs. Now, granted, he could actually defend a little bit, but he wasn't a shooter of Calderon's caliber. Both are great passers.

Dallas had success with Kidd at the helm, a veteran point guard who didn't crack under pressure. He knew how to distribute the ball, how to get Dirk the touches where he needed and was a steadying influence. 

Calderon can do all those things. Since the Mavericks aren't tanking this season, the signing isn't totally out of left field. Calderon will help the offense run smoothly and make Dirk's job easier.

Doing that might be all the Mavs need to earn a playoff spot.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com

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