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Toronto Raptors Point Guard Dilemma: Calderon Vs Jack Vs Banks

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IJanuary 5, 2010

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 02:  Jose Calderon #8 of the Toronto Raptors against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 2, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Jay Triano has made the inevitable announcement that on Wednesday in Orlando the Toronto Raptors Jose Calderon will be returning to the lineup after an unexpectedly long absence due to injury.

And in the 13 games since Calderon last started for the Raptors, the team has managed an 8-5 record. Hence, the speculation about who should start at point guard and, from some corners, speculation about who should be the primary backup.

To put the Raptors record in some context, the Raptors were 6-1 against teams with under .500 records with the lone loss on the road. And the Raptors were 2-4 against teams with records over .500 with the two wins at home.

This stretch of games did include the softest spot in the Raptors schedule thus far this season and included wins over New Jersey and two over Detroit. But at least the Raptors took advantage of it.

There should be no question that the Toronto Raptors would have been in serious trouble if Bryan Colangelo had not had the foresight to acquire Jarrett Jack in the off-season.

And Jack filled in admirably as a starter over the past 13 games averaging 12.8 points on 52% shooting, 6.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.5 turnovers.

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But aside from Jose Calderon getting back into “game shape” has Jarrett Jack’s performance so far this season warranted handing him the starting point guard position?

A stranger question that has been raised by some is, has Marcus Banks performance while Jose Calderon was out earned him the backup point guard role?

Perhaps some objective measures of performance as provided by basketball-reference.com should be considered?

Marcus Banks

In the 14 games that Marcus Banks has played for the Raptors this season, he has averaged 13 minutes, 4.6 points on 51 percent shooting, 1.1 assists, 1.4 rebounds, 0.5 steals, and 0.7 turnovers.

Banks' shooting and turnover numbers are near career bests. But the 1.6-to-1 assist to turnover ratio is about Banks' career average.

On a per 36 minute basis, these numbers equate to 12.9 points, 3.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.0 turnovers.

Banks' rating of net points produced per 100 possessions while on the floor is minus 5.  (108 points produced with 113 points surrendered)

Banks has done a good job backing up Jarrett Jack.

Jarrett Jack

In seemed Jack got off to a slow start this season with the Raptors. And there were definite signs that the revamped Raptors were going through an adjustment period early on.

But in the 35 games that Jack has played in, he has averaged 10 points on 46 percent shooting, 4.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 2.1 turnovers.

Jack's shooting and assists are at or near career bests but the balance of his stats are in line with his career averages.

On a per 36 minute basis, Jack’s numbers equate to 12.7 points, 6.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals, and 2.7 turnovers. And these numbers look almost exactly like Jack’s stats as a starter.

Jack's rating of net points produced per 100 possessions while on the floor is a minus 6 (110 points produced with 116 points surrendered). Jack has a career average of minus 5.

Jose Calderon

Calderon was injured one month ago and has not seen the starting line-up since, making only one brief attempt to come off the bench.

Thus Calderon has played in only 23 games so far this season.

And Calderon was definitely not playing up to the level that Toronto Raptors fans had come to expect.

Jose Calderon has averaged 11.7 points on 51.5 percent shooting, 6.2 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 0.7 steals, and 1.6 turnovers. His assists and steals are the lowest in three seasons and Calderon’s rebounding rate and free throw shooting are at career lows.

The per 36 minute numbers look better but they just confirm the above observations.

The reason fans feel that Calderon is significantly under-performing is best illustrated by his rating of net points produced per 100 possessions while on the floor of only plus 5.  (122 points produced with 117 points surrendered.)

Jose Calderon has a career average of plus 9 net points produced per 100 possessions.  Last season it was plus 11 and during 2007-08, Jose Calderon’s most impressive year, it was plus 18.

The difference between the near all-star Calderon of 2007-08 and the shadow of that player fans have been witnessing is not in Calderon’s ability to shoot efficiently and score. The difference has come from a marked drop in Calderon effectiveness in grabbing rebounds and steals and in creating assists.

Perhaps Calderon is still being effected by last season’s injuries?

Who Should Start?

It would be hard to imagine that Jose Calderon can take a month off the schedule and just step back into a starting role. And, if starting, playing starter’s minutes seems very unlikely at first.

But the numbers support a return of Jose Calderon to the starting lineup as soon as he is able. Jose Calderon certainly has the highest upside of any Raptors point guard.

And the supposedly better defense by Jack and Banks is not supported by the numbers.

Of course the question of who should start versus who should come off the bench can be a question that isn’t always decided by who is the most productive player.

Jay Triano could decide to bring Calderon off the bench in the first quarter to offset the missing playmaking ability of Hedo Turkoglu when he takes his initial break.

One has to hope both of the Raptors top point guards are willing to share duties for the team’s best advantage no matter what the coach decides.

And with the improved play from DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli, Sonny Weems, and Antoine Wright, hopefully the temptation to play Calderon and Jack together has now exited Jay Triano’s play book. Unusual opposition lineups aside, of course.

And the question of Marcus Banks playing backup minutes?

Let's just keep the Raptors unexpectedly serviceable third-string point guard in the reserve role the team needs, waiting for his next opportunity on the bench.

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