Not long after the team’s interest in him was first reported, the Cleveland Cavaliers have signed veteran point guard Jose Calderon to a one-year deal, per Shams Charania of The Vertical. Calderon, 35, is signing for the league minimum worth $2.3 million. The team has yet to officially announce the move.
Free agent Jose Calderon has agreed to a one-year minimum deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, league source tells The Vertical.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 2, 2017
Calderon has played for the Raptors, Lakers, Hawks, Knicks, Mavericks and Pistons during his NBA career. Last season, after being bought out by the Lakers, he was linked to the Cavaliers before Cleveland went with Deron Williams. Calderon subsequently signed with the Warriors. After Kevin Durant was hurt, however, he was waived by Golden State and never appeared in a game for the eventual NBA champs. He then ended up in Atlanta, where he played 17 games, averaging 3.4 points and 2.2 assists.
Calderon, who is the first player the Cavaliers have signed this offseason, will likely replace Williams as Kyrie Irving’s primary backup. It’s possible second-year guard Kay Felder could win the job with strong performances in summer league and training camp. But since LeBron James returned prior to the 2014-15 season, Cleveland has trusted older, veteran players over younger, inexperienced talents.
The problem with the Calderon signing is that it’s unclear exactly what he does that will improve the Cavs. He’s never been a good defender and has slowed in recent years. His shot fell off for the first time in his career (albeit in a small sample size) with the Hawks. He is slower than he used to be, too. In the regular season, this may not matter. But in the possible fourth match-up against the Warriors in the Finals, it’s hard to see how Calderon would even deserve minutes. At his best, he is not better than Williams (who may not have been willing to return for the minimum) and it’s entirely possible he’s no longer better than Felder. For this to work, Calderon will have to get back to shooting near or at 40 percent from three. Last year, with both the Lakers and Hawks, he made just 31.3 percent of this threes — his lowest percentage since the 2005-06 season, his first year in the NBA.
It’s also interesting that Calderon is the first player Cleveland has signed this summer. The market for him couldn’t have been pressing — the Cavs were the only team linked to his services — and his deal probably could have waited until after summer league.
But the Cavs, lead by whoever is making final decisions in a post David Griffin world, found their man less than 24 hours into free agency. And it’s not an entirely inspiring first signing.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story indicated that the the veteran’s minimum for Calderon was $1.6 million. It is actually $2.3 million.