Meet Jose Calderon

Meet Jose Calderon, the veteran point guard who the Pistons signed this offseason.

The Pistons and veteran Spanish point guard Jose Calderon have agreed to a one year, veteran’s minimum (of $2.4 million) one year contract. Per the collective bargaining agreement, his $2.4 million will only count as about $1.5million against the cap.

Wait, what’s this about "it only counts as 1.5 against the cap"?

The NBA sets up veteran’s minimums to pay players more money the longer they have been in the NBA for. The obvious result of this would be that cash-strapped teams would just not sign guys who have been around longer because they are more expensive. As such, the cap hit of a veteran’s minimum cannot be larger than just about $1.5 million, so while Jose Calderon does, in fact, make more money than some younger guy, he counts just as much towards the cap and tax line.

Who is Jose Calderon?

Jose Calderon hails from Spain and is a 36-year-old, 6 foot 3-inch, 200-pound point guard. He began his NBA career at 24 years old for the Toronto Raptors, which is where he spent the majority of his career. He was a rock solid player in Toronto and an early love interest of the advanced stats revolution. His combination of great 3-point shooting, high assist rate, and lack of turnovers made him one of the more underappreciated players in the NBA.

Ironically, he left Toronto to join the Pistons when he was traded as part of the deal that sent Tayshaun Prince from Detroit to Memphis. He only spent the rest of that season with the Pistons however before departing in free agency. Since that time he has appeared for Dallas, New York, The Lakers, Atlanta, and most recently the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Upshot for the rest of the roster

Calderon is the 3rd point guard. In an ideal world he will not play hardly at all this season, but in even an optimistic world he will get occasional time. Whether it be as a result of injury or foul trouble. He also almost certainly finishes the Pistons offseason moves, as they are right against the tax-line once they sign Khyri Thomas. As such the Pistons will most likely enter the season with an open roster spot. This move is the one that ensured that Dwight Buycks would not be retained.

The Good

Calderon is a cheap veteran presence who should, at the very least, provide some of the locker-room leadership that the Pistons lost with Anthony Tolliver. He has been a consistently beloved teammate and professional, and his even-keeled, intelligent style of play is exactly the type you want to have from a veteran. Beyond his veteran presence, it is hard to count on too much, when players get to be his age you never know when they may just lose it. Last season Jameer Nelson was as clear an example of this as could be.

That said, assuming that Calderon is able to mostly replicate his play from last year in Cleveland, he does bring some good things to the actual court should he see it. First off, Calderon can still really shoot. Calderon remains one of the most efficient shooters in the history of the game, and while he does not have an especially quick trigger-finger, he is fully able to be counted on to hit open shots when he has them. Considering the potential for spacing issues that could befall this Pistons team, having another reliable shooter on the roster is certainly worth something.

Beyond his shooting, Calderon remains an incredibly high IQ player. Despite his assists dropping (by any measure of the stat) as he has aged, he remains almost comically turnover averse. And even though, in his age, he is not someone who is going to be creating good looks for teammates, he is a very smart passer who can still find openings when they are there.

His high-IQ even translates onto the defensive end of the court, where he is actually not nearly as bad as you probably think he is. That is admittedly a low bar to clear, he is not staying in front of any high-level ball handlers, but he is pretty big and knows what he is doing. He will rotate correctly, keep his head on a swivel, and generally gives a decent effort. He’s also scrappier than the stereotype of a sweet-shooting Euro would have you believe.

All of this combines to show that Calderon is a guy who just makes your team better. On/Off numbers have a huge amount of noise around them of course, but Calderon’s are encouraging. Even in his older age, his teams have consistently been better with him on the floor, even last year with the Cavaliers.

The Bad

First off, Jose Calderon is very old. As stated before, you never know when a player of his age may just lose it. If Calderon is the same player as last year in Cleveland he should work out very nicely for the Pistons, but there is a very real chance that he ends up being borderline useless on the court because he has simply gotten too old.

Once again, assuming he is close to the same player as last year, there are still very obvious holes in his game. First off, despite him probably being better than you think, he is a very bad defender. Even against bench mobs, he will have to be hidden more often than not, and even against non-scorers will struggle.

On the offensive end, Calderon just isn’t a guy who is creating shots for anyone anymore. Teams have to still respect his outside shot to the point that he is sometimes still able to create space to slip into, especially when he gets a screen. But he simply won’t be going around defenders and forcing help on the inside. Once again, he’s a smart enough passer that he can still find guys, and he has good enough touch to score inside on occasion with high floaters and flips, but he just isn’t an engine for an offense.

The biggest worry with Calderon, in the end, is really his age. Even if he is still able to be a fairly effective player, it isn’t at all clear how large of a load he would be able to carry. In theory as the 3rd guard this won’t be a problem, but given the way the injury bug has hit the Pistons over the past two years, you can’t ignore the possibility of Calderon being forced into real minutes for a significant stretch of the season. Calderon has been mostly durable in his career but has not been a regular rotation member for the last two years. Let’s say Ish Smith has a freak injury to take him out for the season very early on, even if Calderon’s abilities allow him to fill in for Ish with effectiveness (which is, honestly, fairly likely) it would be worrisome to count on Calderon for 15-20 minutes per night for 70 games.

Best Case Scenario

Calderon is rarely called into action, but as the season goes on he continues to produce at a really good level and has great chemistry with the team. Both Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith stay mostly healthy all season, Calderon ends up playing in 35 games when all is said and done. All his teammates talk about what a great guy he is, and he is never over-taxed by too much playing time. He is so beloved that after the Pistons make a surprise run to the finals as the annual sacrifice to the Warriors they decide to bring him back again next year and Calderon ends up doing a Juwan Howard as he transitions from reliable vet who can fill in from time to time to assistant coach over the next few years.

Worst Case Scenario

Injury comes for either one of the Pistons top two point guards forcing Calderon into the rotation for the entire season. Calderon quickly and obviously is no longer up to the task of regular NBA minutes. The Pistons try to get creative to find ways around him whether it be playing starters with the bench mob to take on ball-handling duties or just giving other guys a shot. In the end, they all are ineffective and the bench mob is a problem all season long and Calderon ends up being remembered in the same way that Steve Blake is. For good measure, Dwight Buycks is picked up by another team and plays at a high level for them.

The Verdict

As long as he is capable of playing at the level he did last year then I like this move, he should be a capable 3rd guard and will surprise a lot of people when he does fill in. My guess would actually be that after watching his shooting and what it does to the floor there will be plenty of people who call for him to play over Ish Smith.

In the end, though, Calderon is hopefully not going to be an overly impactful player. He is a guy who has played at off-guard at times in his career but the Pistons have so many shooting guard types that there is no reason for him to get time there this year. As such, the only way he ends up playing is if something happens to the guys in front of him. Ish Smith has been very durable in his career, and for all the worry over Reggie Jackson, last season’s injury was a freak incident that could happen to anyone.

What about Dwight Buycks?

An unfortunate loss. Buycks was a fun story from last year and he was actually pretty good. My understanding is that the Pistons ended up saving some money as a result of the move which was a big reason why. They are totally determined to dodge the luxury tax. The biggest thing that I will miss about Buycks is that I thought he really defended at a high level, in the end though, Calderon is a safer bet, and you also have to remember that Buycks isn’t some young gun bursting with potential. Buycks will turn 30 this next season.

I like Buycks quite a lot and wish the Pistons had kept him. One thing to remember about his play last year is that he was a perfect fit for the bench mob he entered into. His regular lineup-mates were Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, Anthony Tolliver, and Eric Moreland. Kennard and Tolliver can shoot, but there is not a lot of shot creation or offense in general in that lineup. As such, having a guy who can create his own look, even one who did it at a level that was not exactly elite like Buycks, was very valuable. This season, having a veteran who makes smart passes and is a reliable outside shooter (of which Buycks is neither) may actually be more valuable.

So personally, I would’ve rather kept Buycks, but Calderon is good and I think that Pistons fans will come around on him once they realize he is not Jameer Nelson. Although I will admit that the combination of Nelson and Steve Blake before him give Pistons fans

What do you think? Does he still have anything left in the tank? Would you have confidence in him if he’s forced into real playing time?

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