On January 30, 2012, Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors was traded to the Detroit Pistons in a three-way trade that would see Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye (he later signed with the Raptors in the offseason) and Ed Davis go to the Memphis Grizzlies, as Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi headed to the Raptors.
The trade marked an end of an era for the Raptors as Calderon was one of the last members of the Chris Bosh era, one in which the team consistently competed for playoff positioning year-round.
On July 11, 2012, former GM Bryan Colangelo was applauded for trading for feisty pitbull point guard Kyle Lowry in exchange for little-used reserve Gary Forbes and a future first-round pick. Two seasons after the fact, with Lowry not panning out exactly as planned (although still playing respectably), Raptor fans may be wondering if Calderon would have been the point guard better served to run the current roster, especially considering the well-known offensive woes the roster currently finds itself being plagued by.
As of November 26, the Raptors rank 25th in FG% (42.3 percent), 19th in 3PT shooting (34 percent),19th in points per game (97.2), sixth in turnovers per game (14.5) and 24th in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.20. In other words, the Raptors stink on offense.
Would Calderon have been the answer to these offensive woes? Well, he definitely would have helped.
Since signing with the Raptors in 2005, Calderon was consistently amongst the league leaders in the critical assist-to-turnover category, which is a mark of efficiency and pride for many point guards. Calderon’s career average of 7.1 assists to 1.7 turnovers is nothing short of spectacular, while Lowry’s career averages of 5.1-1.9 is not quite as eye-popping, but respectable nonetheless.
Although Lowry certainly brings a defensive prowess that Calderon never had during his career, he doesn’t bring the same offensive efficiency as Calderon did. Lowry is shooting a career 34 percent from three while only shooting an overall 38.5 percent from the field for this season, down slightly from his still-low career field goal average of 41.6 percent.
In contrast, Calderon turned himself into a 3-point sniper during his time with the Raptors. He currently sits at a career 40.3 percent clip from beyond the arc, and he led the league in 3-point shooting percentage at 46.1 percent. In short, Lowry has never been an efficient shooter, at least not to the degree that Calderon was.
As a result, in this current season, Raptor fans have seen defenses able to pack it in on the Raptors’ go-to scorers (Gay and Demar Derozan). This has been a big problem for the Raptors and for Dwane Casey‘s offense. Casey has relied tirelessly on one-on-one isolation plays through both Gay and Derozan, resulting in one of the lesser offenses in the entire league.
Raptor fans may be thinking that Casey should make the most of Lowry’s abilities to get to the basket. Yet, Casey isn’t — nor should he — feel inclined to hand over the reins to Lowry. During Calderon’s time with the Raptors, Calderon regularly tormented opposing teams with a surgical approach to the pick-and-roll alongside Bosh and Andrea Bargani. But, the Raptors don’t have those type of stretch shooters anymore, and Lowry can’t shoot or pick apart defenses quite like Calderon could anyway.
Although the Raptors may have traded Calderon away, he let his love for the franchise be publicly known in a heartfelt and teary-eyed exit interview after having learned of the trade. On July 11, 2013, Calderon signed a four-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks worth $28 million. The Raptors could have offered Calderon a sizable contract with their mid-level exception because of Calderon’s bird rights with the team (which allow teams to re-sign their own players exceeding the payroll maximum).
Calderon could have been paired with Gay, Derozan, Jonas Valanciunas and the rest of the bunch in Raptorland, helping to create better looks for the whole team. I guess you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone, eh Raptor nation?