The signing of Jose Calderon was one of the more controversial moments from the Cleveland Cavaliers offseason. The team signed the veteran point guard in the opening days of free agency with plenty of other options available. But now that he’s on the team, what can a 36-year-old Calderon bring to the Wine and Gold this season?
Throughout his career, Calderon has brought a surprisingly level of consistency. Despite being undrafted, he has started at least 13 games every year of his NBA career. For his career he has shot 47.3 percent from the floor, 40.9 percent from three, and 87.5 percent from the free throw line. He is a strong shooter that takes care of the basketball, with an average of 3.88 assists per turnover for his career.
Calderon was a defensive liability in his prime, and there’s no reason to expect that will change this season. While he has good size for the position at 6’3”, his foot and hand speed just isn’t conducive to being a productive defender.
While the eye-test on Calderon defensively paints an ugly picture, there are a couple areas you can look to where the light breaks through the clouds. The Hawks defensive rating was 10.2 points better with Calderon on the floor, compared to when he sat. His DRPM rating of -0.36 ranked 29th among point guards. Ahead of the 73rd ranked Derrick Rose, 82nd ranked Isaiah Thomas, and even the 71st ranked Kyrie Irving. Make no mistake, Calderon is a very poor defensive player. But with the team essentially punting defense at the point guard position this season, he may actually be the team’s best option among their point guards.
One of the things the Cavs will be banking on this season with Calderon is that his three point shooting will return to form. Calderon shot just 31.5 percent from behind the arc last season, a drop-off from the 41.4 percent he shot the year before. He dealt with calf and hamstring injuries while with the Lakers and had extended periods of not playing before he was bought out and signed with the Hawks. Hopefully coming into camp healthy and getting to play off of other play-makers will assist in him returning to form from behind the arc.
With Isaiah Thomas out, the team may actually need to keep Calderon in their rotation. Last season Tyronn Lue opted to keep Kyle Korver coming off the bench even with J.R. Smith out to help keep him in his desired role for when the team gets healthy. It will be interesting to see if Lue opts to do the same with Rose, and start Calderon while Thomas is out. Playing with the starters would help mask some of his deficiencies and allow Rose to get used to running the second unit.
Conversely, Calderon could be a candidate to be bought out (or even cut) with Dwyane Wade set to join the team. Or he could be buried in the rotation even with Thomas out if Lue opts to start LeBron at point guard and Jae Crowder at small forward.
It’s very possible that Calderon will be asked to play a bigger role early on than most would have imagined. Or he could have little to no role at all. The rotation Tyronn Lue will use with this team and what role players will play is still a mystery. But it’s possibly the signing of Calderon wasn’t as big of a disaster as the initial reaction suggested.