Calderon On the Block?

In ESPN writer Marc Stein’s latest “Weekend Dime” column, he references a Spanish newspaper interview where Jose Calderon says that he would “like to have the opportunity to compete for something” though in the same interview, Calderon reportedly states that he would not ask for a trade from Toronto because it’s not his personality.

Stein goes on to write that the while the Raptors might not be actively shopping Calderon, the team “have let it be known they’re willing to listen, since he’s no longer regarded as their long-term answer at the point.

Stein also raises the possibility of the Raptors releasing Calderon under the league’s new amnesty clause if they can’t get what they want in a potential trade, which would reportedly be another point guard in return.

The amnesty topic is interesting, because other potential amnesty targets for the Raptors could have been Linas Kleiza, if he couldn’t make a competent recovery from microfracture surgery, and possibly even Andrea Bargnani, if he didn’t show that he could fit with the team’s new defensive direction (though I highly doubt Colangelo would have ever amnestied his No. 1 overall pick).

With Kleiza looking at least decent, if not playing above expectations, and Bargnani looking like a potential All Star when healthy, some of the amnesty spotlight shifts back to Calderon. Having said that, with how well Jose has played for the most part this season (10.5 points, 8.4 assists, 4.67 Assist-to-turnover ratio), the Raptors should be able to get something of value in return, even if it’s not a fellow point guard.

If the Raps were to shop Calderon right now, what kind of value could the efficient point guard deliver in a trade?

The Lakers, Heat and Knicks are in obvious need of an upgrade at the position, but do any of those three teams have anything the Raptors would be willing to take back? Probably not. Guys like Metta World Peace and Derek Fisher don’t make sense (both have player options after this season), nearly every player of substance in Miami is locked into a long-term contract that wouldn’t benefit the Raptors’ rebuild, and in New York, I can’t see the Knicks parting with young pieces like Landry Fields or Iman Shumpert just to land Calderon, especially with their “saviour” Baron Davis on the way.

After those three high-profile teams, it’s hard to find contending teams in desperate need of point guard help. Two teams that did come to my mind were the Trail Blazers and Jazz. Raymond Felton has been disappointing in Portland, Calderon would provide an upgrade at the position for the Blazers and Felton’s expiring contract could be enticing for a Raptors team looking to clear as much cap space as possible for this summer.

As for the Jazz, there have been rumours swirling all season that Devin Harris, whose play has regressed over the last couple of years, could be dealt. Calderon’s and Harris’ salaries are almost identical, both contracts run through the 2012-2013 season and the Raptors would get a capable point guard who is a couple of years younger than Calderon. My problem with this potential deal would be that neither team would really be upgrading themselves or clearing cap space. It would be a deal for the sake of making a deal.

If I’m Bryan Colangelo, I obviously want to capitalize on Calderon’s current value before he either gets hurt or begins to wear down (Jose’s play has already begun to slow down over recent games), but I also don’t want to just give him away. As a fan, I would be fine with dealing Calderon for cap space and a draft pick, regardless of whether the Raptors get any tangible value for this season.

As it stands right now, with Calderon on the books and a couple of top-five picks expected to join the team next season (including Jonas Valanciunas), the Raptors would have nearly $50 million committed in salaries. But if they can find a way to unload Calderon for an expiring contract (like Felton’s), they could have as little as about $39 million committed.

I’ve grown to like Calderon overt the last couple of seasons, and think that when he’s truly on his game, he can be one of the 10 best point guards in the NBA. But when you’re a rebuilding team looking for youth and flexibility, moving a 30-year-old with value to create as much as $20 million in cap space seems to make a lot of sense.

Of course on the other hand, you could make the argument that Calderon will be of greater value next season, when he is playing on an expiring contract and the Raptors (hopefully) have a more defined future core in place.

The only thing that is certain is this: Despite how well Calderon has played and how great of an ambassador he has been, the chances that he is the Raptors’ point guard when they are ready to “compete for something” are slim to none.