Jose CalderonWith five days to go until the start of the Toronto Raptors 2010-11 season, I’m profiling each of the guys I expect to make up the Raptors’ primary 10-man rotation on opening night. Today, we look at Jose Calderon.

Jose Calderon, PG, 6’3″, 210 lbs.
2009-10 stats: 68 games, 26.7 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.4 BPG, 0.1 SPG, .482 FG%, .398 3P%, .798 FT%, 16.5 PER

Remember when some of us thought that Jose Calderon had the potential be “Steve Nash Lite”? Ahhh, those were heady days, weren’t they? After a 2007-08 season where Calderon played his way into the argument for being ranked as a top-10 point guard in the NBA, he signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Raptors that seemed like it could be a bargain when he inevitably played in multiple All-Star Games.

Unfortunately, a combination of injuries and an inability to maintain the absurd shooting accuracy of his breakout season (.519 FG% and .429 3P% in 2007-08) have turned his contract into an albatross and now it seems doubtful he can cut it as a starting point guard in this league. How did things go so wrong?

It’s hard to say how much of his deterioration on both ends of the floor is a result of various hamstring and ankle injuries he’s incurred over the past two seasons, but you’d have to think they’ve played a role in his declining mobility whether or not he’s willing to admit it. His lateral movement has deteriorated to the point that he’s a significant liability on defence (particularly on pick-and-rolls) and his falling shooting percentages show that he’s unable to create shots for himself with the same effectiveness as before.

While it’s likely impossible to prove, there is also a theory that Jose Calderon’s confidence was shaken when he temporarily lost his starting job to Jarrett Jack last December. That might help explain why his free throw shooting declined from a surreal 98.1 percent success rate in 2008-09 to a merely above-average 79.8 percent rate last season. Free throw shooting is about two things — mechanics and confidence — and it’s not hard to see how his confidence could have been rattled after being usurped by the free agent newcomer, Jack. It was “The Calderford Controversy” all over again.

This preseason, Calderon has been nothing short of awful. He can’t hit his shots, he’s not driving into the lane with any confidence, and his defense is as putrid as ever. On his personal blog, Jose wrote that he was “concerned about the allocation of roles; thus far the preseason hasn’t left a clear idea how those roles are going to be shared. We are all playing pretty much the same number of minutes and with equal responsibilities on offense. It is early, there remains another ten days until our first game, but we have unknowns that need to be defined.”

Jose may have forced Jay Triano’s hand in defining his role after he went 0-for-6 in 25 minutes against the Bulls on Wednesday. In 359 career regular season games, Jose has never gone 0-for-6 or worse. It’s only preseason, but his .289 FG% and .091 3P% do not bode well for him to reverse his decline of the past two seasons. Sadly, where we once hoped for “Steve Nash Lite”, now we’ll likely have to settle for being happy with “Luke Ridnour Lite”, at best.