Is 2010 Jose Calderon's All-Star Year?

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IOctober 23, 2009

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26:  Jose Calderon #8 of the Toronto Raptors drives past Jameer Nelson #14 of the Orlando Magic in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the Air Canada Centre April 26, 2008 in Toronto, Ontario. The Magic defeated the Raptors 106-94 to take a 3-1 series lead.  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

While almost everyone would agree that Jose Calderon’s 2008-09 season was a disappointment, if one only looks at his statistics, last season was just another step forward in his NBA career.

But this year, Jose Calderon has slipped below the radar of many NBA analysts and, sadly, many Toronto Raptors’ fans.  Sometimes we need to be reminded that each season Toronto fans have witnessed the development of one of the better point guards in the NBA.

From Jose’s rookie year averages of: 5.5 points and 4.5 assists.
To his second year numbers of: 8.7 points and 5.0 assists.
Then the amazing third year result: 11.2 points and 8.3 assists.
Finally, last year’s continued improvement: 12.8 and 8.9 assists.

What surprised analysts the most was the gains in assists have not been followed by increases in turnovers.  Even leading to calls for Calderon to take more risks with the ball in order to elevate his game further.

In that unexpected third season, Jose Calderon had a league leading 5.5:1 assist to turnover ratio (excluding players with less than 500 minutes).  Unfortunately, the Raptors were not really in contention and Calderon was over-looked for all-star consideration.

Last year, Calderon’s assist to turnover dropped to 4.2:1 but he was only bettered by Travis Diener who barely broke the 500 minutes played barrier.

Last year fans legitimately worried about Jose’s groin injury incurred while playing for Spain.  Then they cringed as a lingering early season hamstring injury eventually cost Calderon 17 games and months of limited mobility.

Those worries should be gone.

For the first time since he started playing professional basketball, Calderon didn’t play for his national team and took the summer off.  He had a nagging finger injury repaired and he rested his body to be ready for the long NBA season ahead.

The lingering angst expressed from last season’s inability to effectively guard his own position seems overstated.  Last season’s issues should not have been a surprise.  Chasing after the fastest players on the floor with a sore hamstring isn’t likely to be pretty. 

Of course, Jose’s defensive weaknesses were documented in past seasons as well, just not to the same level.

Did opposing point guards really abuse the Raptors last season?  Arguably, guards and wings appeared to have their way the Raptors most nights. But we are fortunate in that the NBA supplies individual player stats versus the Raptors.

Sure, some guards did “torch” Jose, like Mike Bibby, who has always seemed to have the Raptors’ number.  But most were at or near their average numbers.  The 13 best starting point guards in the Eastern Conference averaged 14.6 points, 6.3 assists, and 3.1 boards against Toronto. 

Hardly the overwhelming statistics one might expect if Calderon was as inept at guarding his own position as has been frequently reported.

There is no doubt Jose Calderon underperformed while trying to meet fans' expectations in 2009.  And a 33 win season leaves many looking for an excuse as to what could have possibly gone wrong.  But, in fairness, more than one player failed to meet expectations on last year’s Raptors squad. 

In fairness, the team may have lacked enough “players."

The fall of 2009 brings a new season to the NBA and a new opportunity for Jose Calderon to continue to develop his game.  Calderon has not proved to be unusually injury prone and there is no reason to suspect this season will resemble last season in terms of injury.

The Raptors have acquired some top level offensive talent for Calderon to work with.  The veteran Hedo Turkoglu represents the best starting small forward in memory.

Andrea Bargnani will be a starter all season and provide another source of assists.

The acquisition of Marco Belinelli adds a three-point shooting threat who, unlike the recently departed Jason Kapono, isn’t afraid to shoot. 

The team has depth across all positions unlike anything this team has seen in years.

Fans should be expecting another significant improvement in Jose Calderon’s points and assists again this season.  Is it unreasonable to expect that Jose should legitimately vie for an all-star spot this season?

The competition since 2007-08 has changed.  Gone to the Western Conference are the veterans Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups. 

In with last year’s incumbents: Mo Williams, Jameer Nelson, and Devin Harris.  And look for Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose to make a challenge for consideration.  How the teams are doing in the standings will be a major factor.

Here are last year’s statistics for comparison.

Mo Williams: 17.8 points, 4.1 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 to.
Jameer Nelson: 16.7 points, 5.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 2 to.
Devin Harris: 21.3 points, 6.9 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 to.
Rajon Rondo: 11.9 points, 8.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 to.
Derrick Rose: 16.8 points, 6.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 to.

Jose Calderon: 12.8 points, 8.9 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 2.1 to.

Clearly last year’s all-star considerations ignored a deserving effort by Rajon Rondo in favor of the scoring provided by the combo guards Williams and Nelson.

This year Devin Harris may put up good numbers, but it will be on a very bad team.  The shine has come off Mo Williams post-playoffs and he never was considered all-star material in Milwaukee (where his stats were better).  And Jameer Nelson will have to share the spotlight in Orlando with Vince Carter.

This year’s all-star selection from a point guard perspective in the East should be considered wide open.  The East has no dominating point guards capable of a 20 point, 10 assist average as is found in the West.  Just getting to a 10 assist per game average in the East should create a lot of attention.

It will take an improvement in Jose Calderon’s personal statistics plus the Raptors will likely have to be playing well enough to compete for the fourth spot in the East, but this season could prove to be the year Calderon competes for all-star consideration.

Expectations for 2010: Jose Calderon, All-Star!


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