And so it begins. The Raptors may be in the early stages of another point guard controversy with news that Jose Calderon is expected back in the starting lineup when the Raptors take on the Knicks at MSG on Tuesday.
It wasn’t that long ago, just a few years really, since the last one.
T.J. Ford was the higher paid, quicker, penetrating point guard who could fill the basket. But he was unpredictable and injury-prone, while the much more efficient and “team-first” Calderon was seemingly dependable. More importantly, Calderon was set to become a free agent, and Bryan Colangelo had to make a decision. Jose was given a lucrative five-year contract, Ford was involved in a trade that brought Jermaine O’Neal to Toronto.
How quickly things change. Now it’s Calderon who is the higher paid starting point guard. Jose’s still a highly efficient, pass-first guard, but like T.J. (though obviously not as severely), Calderon is now the starter with injury problems. Ironically, Jerryd Bayless is now the young point guard the Raptors need to make a decision on, as the lone year remaining on his contract is a $4.1 million qualifying offer.
In the five games since Calderon rolled his ankle in Detroit, Bayless has navigated the Raptors through a 2-3 stretch while playing some of the best ball of his NBA career. In the five contests, all starts for Bayless, he’s averaged 21.8 points on 54 per cent shooting (57 per cent from deep) to go along with 7.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals.
In addition, for a point guard who’s known as a careless turnover machine, Bayless is averaging nearly three assists for every turnover during this recent stretch. It’s nowhere near Calderon’s league leading clip of 4.46, but when a point guard’s giving you a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio while scoring 20-plus points on 50 per cent shooting, there’s really not much about his play to complain about.
This isn’t the first time Bayless has made the most of an opportunity to start, as he finished last season averaging 22.5 points on over 48 per cent shooting through the season’s final eight games. Quite simply, it seems that for now, Bayless performs best in Toronto as a starter.
Calderon is the better pure point guard, but Bayless is looking more and more like the better game changer with each passing contest. I’ve really liked Jose’s play this season, and I was one of the fans who thought he shouldn’t be traded unless the Raptors could get a first round pick or intriguing young asset back in return. But as we’re all painfully aware, this season is about development and seeing what we have in our younger players.
If you ask me, I’d like to see what Jerryd Bayless can do as a starter this week against Jeremy Lin and Derrick Rose. That’s not a knock on Jose, but rather a sign of his movement over the last four years from the loveable underdog in a point guard battle to the steady old guard.