It’s amazing what a difference a month or so makes. Wasn’t it near the end of November when Raptor fans were clamouring to either trade Jarrett Jack or staple him to the bench beside Patrick O’Bryant? Of course, these were the same fans who wanted to break up the team at the beginning of December, start Antoine Wright in place of Demar DeRozan and thought Colangelo should have hired Flip Saunders instead of Jay Triano.
Now, of course, Raptor fans think Jack is the greatest thing since sliced bread (or Alvin Williams, whichever is better with jam). Well, that is until Jack has a couple of bad shooting games, and then….COME ON, LET’S FOCUS ON THE PRESENT, which is where all Raptor fans live their life!!!!
So, Calderon goes down on December 5th, right around when the Raptors started turning things around. Is it any coincidence that as soon as Jack takes over the Raptors go 10-5?
Well, yes, kind of.
Anti-Calderon fans (is there such thing as an `anti-fan’?) will point to the improved defense, which is one of the reasons the Raptors are playing better. With Calderon out and Jack in, the defense is obviously going to improve, right?
Well, not really. Not as much as some people seem to think.
Yes, the Raptors defense has improved since the beginning of December, but that can’t really be attributed to Calderon not being on the floor. There are two problems with this argument. The first being that the defense did not improve right away. The first six games Jack started, the Raptors gave up 106 ppg (including giving up more than 115 points in three games) and in four of the six games let their opponent shoot over (well over) 50%. If Jack was the difference maker, you would have seen an immediate improvement. There wasn’t. One of the Raptors worst defensive games of the season came six games into Jack’s reign as starting point guard, where they let Orlando shoot an astounding 67% from the field.
The other problem with argument is that Triano tweaked the defense after the Orlando game, which is actually the main reason the Raptors defense has improved. Most fans would not even realize this unless someone pointed it out to them (and few even then), but the changes made an immediate impact.
Of course, the Raptors defense really hasn’t been as good as fans might like to think. What?!?! Have I lost my mind? In 6 of their last 8 games, the Raptors have held to their opponent under 50% from the field and 5 out of 6 times held their opponent to under 100 points. Obviously they’ve played great defense. Right?!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled with the defense they’ve been playing, and it’s about where I’d hoped it would be by this time. But it’s certainly not great. See, the thing is that 5 of the last 8 opponents were horrible offensively. Detroit (without several of their best offensive players), Charlotte, New Jersey and New Orleans are all in the bottom ten in the league for field goal percentage (and none have a winning record).
Yes, I know they also held two good shooting teams (and good teams, period), to under 50%, and that’s because they have the ability to play good defense. In spurts.
Oh, and Calderon actually played more than 25 minutes against Orlando when the Raptors held them to under 50%. And if you want to get into fairly meaningless +/- stats, Calderon actually had +4 compared to Jack’s 0. And it was Calderon that drove the ball against the Orlando defense when no other Raptor was, setting Bargnani up for two important threes.
No one is disputing that Jack is a better defender, but the one thing that has been apparent is that the Raptors offense runs much better when Calderon is at the helm. Of the thirteen games Jack started without Calderon playing, the Raptors scored over 100 points just four times. Of the 23 games Calderon played at least 25 minutes, the Raptors scored less than 100 points just five times.
And while the Raptors do have a better record with Jack starting, that’s also coincidental. Everyone in their right mind knew the Raptors would struggle out of the gate. They had a brutal schedule and a brand new, young and inexperienced team. I myself, figured they’d end up winning only 7 games before December, and I still predicted a +.500 season. Everyone knew it would take time for the team to gell and I even stated that the team would start to turn things around by Christmas (just for the record, it was December 18th when they started winning). Calderon just happen to go down at the wrong time. The team started winning DESPITE him being out, not because of it.
Okay, so have him come off the bench.
My question is, why?
The Raptors have rarely had a problem defensively in the first quarter, and I’ve already shown that Calderon’s hurting the team defensively has been overstated. The team runs better with Calderon at the helm than Jack. It’s as simple as that. Even with Turkoglu on the floor. If Triano wants to continue bringing Calderon off the bench, then I don’t have a problem with that, but it doesn’t really matter. For the team to be successful, Calderon needs to not only play, but play heavy minutes. The Raptors recent winning ways is due, in part, to playing sub-par competition, and the Raptors need Calderon in the lineup if they hope to catch Miami for the 5th spot in the East.
This nonsense about trading Calderon is simply nonsense, especially the trade some fans seem to want that would net Jordan Farmar and Adam Morrison (and his expiring contract) in return. Geez, talk about not knowing what you got! Farmar’s a career backup, and a mediocre one at that, and I’m not sure what the point of Morrison’s expiring contract is expect to simply save money. And are these the same Raptor fans that complain about MLSE being cheap? I mean really, it’s mind boggling.