So the Raptors get a win against Philadelphia and, this time, Jose Calderon becomes the PG of the hour for the Raptors, making up for the poor game he had in the loss against Washington. This time it was Jack who had the horrible game, in fact in the last 3 games he’s had 2 bad ones. Not surprisingly, some people are now questioning whether Calderon should be starting and Jack coming off the bench.
The Raptors wouldn’t be the Raptors if there wasn’t some questions surrounding the PG position. I think the last time the Raptors were truly at peace with their point guard situation for an extended period was when Damon Stoudemire was playing in the Skydome. After him, Alvin Williams who, while a gritty player, was not nearly as good as fans seem to remember him (and wasn’t healthy for very long), which is why the Raptors tried a couple of times to replace him, once with Mark Jackson for 54 games. Then a parade of guys like Jalen Rose, Rafer Alston and Mike James came through, all not nearly as talented as they thought themselves to be.
When Charlie Villaneuva was traded for T.J. Ford, it looked like the long drought was over. Ford was a lightening quick, 23 year old PG that was locked in a battle for the starting position in Milwaukee with Mo Williams. He was a pass-first, feisty jet quick player and the type of PG that seemed to possess leadership qualities you want in your lead guard. He seemed to be exactly what the Raptors needed and looked like the long term solution for the Raptors at PG.
And then Jose Calderon came out of nowhere to become a legitimate NBA player who pushed Ford for the starting position, eventually winning out the next season. Of course, Jose’s reign didn’t last long before he started to struggle and Jarrett Jack was brought in and eventually replaced him as the starter.
So now, the Raptors have two PGs who are pretty good, but neither is really an above average starting PG at this point. At least not consistently.
Now, I have been a big believer from the beginning that Calderon should start ahead of Jack. In my opinion, you want your starting PG to be able to make other players better, and Calderon simply does that better than Jack.
I have to be clear that I was a big fan of the Raptors signing Jack and I still am. I just think he is being asked to do more than he should. Ideally, Jack is a backup PG who can also play some SG if needed. Right now, he’s a character actor being asked to carry a movie, and he can’t do it.
A lot has been talked about Calderon’s contract. I don’t think anyone would argue against the fact that Calderon is being overpaid. When he was offered the contract, he was coming off a stellar last few months and looked like he might have the ability to become an All-Star. Pat Riley and Miami were interested in signing him but the Raptors made the decision to trade TJ Ford and hand the reigns over to him. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to live up to the promise he had when he signed the contract. But I digress…
During the summer, and it got a lot louder during the preseason, there were a lot of calls for Calderon to get traded and he almost was, at one point. While I didn’t have a problem with the almost-trade, I never felt that moving him should have been a big priority.
And while Calderon’s contract is rather onerous, it’s not exactly a big problem for the Raptors. They aren’t in a position where they need to clear salaries, and even with his contract, will have plenty of cap room next summer. Besides, I never like trying to trade a player when his value is down, and Calderon’s value wasn’t very high during the summer. If Calderon can put together a good season, his value should be much higher, especially with one year less on his contract.
It’s not that I think Calderon is the long term solution at point guard for the Raptors, but when a team loses it’s best scorer and doesn’t really have anyone on the roster that has been known to create his own shots, having a PG that can pass the ball and run an offense is probably a plus.
If you’re going to trade one of the PGs, it seems to me that Jack would be the more sensible choice. He’s got more value, due to the fact that he’s younger, has a manageable contract, is more durable that Calderon and can play two positions. Plus, as I mentioned above, I’d rather have a true PG leading this team than a combo guard who doesn’t make his teammates better, especially when you’ve got so many young players who are still developing their game.
The big problem with the Raptors, though, is that neither PG is who you want ultimately leading the team. There have been numerous calls for Colangelo to trade one of them and get a long term solution at PG. There are two problems with that solution. The first is that there aren’t exactly a whole lot of good, young PGs on the market. And the last thing the Raptors need to do is be in a hurry to do anything right now. No trade is going to “save the season” for the Raptors. Any realistic Raptor fan should have known before the season started what lay ahead for the team. This was not a playoff bound team and the big goal at the finish line this year was going to be a high draft pick. If the Raptors were able to somehow secure a good, young PG, what happens if they end up with the best player available being a PG, like Kyrie Irving?
While the Raptors PG position might be a weakness, in some ways, it’s also a strength. The whole idea of having two PGs so close in talent is that they can cover for one another. If Jack has a bad game, Calderon can pick up the slack and visa versa. If Calderon had been traded, who would have covered for Jack against Philadelphia? Marcus Banks, despite what a few fans seem to think, is not the answer.
What the Raptors need to do with their PGs is simply let them play out the season. If they draft a PG in the draft, THEN they can make a trade, but there’s no point in doing it until then.