We know Steve Nash is the primary target of everything this summer for Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors. We also know that the point guard position is one of the areas (along with the small forward spot) that Colangelo believes needs to be addressed this off-season.
If the Raptors swing and miss on Nash, reports still speculate that they would potentially make a push for Jeremy Lin, who is a restricted free agent. Then there’s the lead guard situation in Houston, where feisty Kyle Lowry isn’t Kevin McHale’s biggest fan and Goran Dragic appears to be a young point guard on the rise, but one who will demand a sizable contract as well.
Lastly, there is Toronto’s most recent point guard combination of Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless. Calderon is heading into the final year of a long-term and lucrative contract and is a potential amnesty target. Bayless is an intriguing yet unproven (over the long haul anyway) young restricted free agent.
I think it’s safe to say that one of these six names will be Toronto’s starting point guard on opening night in October, and that a few of them will be moving around this summer. But of the six, which one would you say is the best option right now? Which of the six will be the best player a year from now, two years from now?
Here’s how the statistics break down:
*All stats listed are per 36 minutes*
Jose Calderon – Age: 30
2011-12 season: 11.1 points, 9.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 2.1 turnovers, 45.7 FG%, 37.1 3PT%, 1.4 FTA, 88.2 FT%, 16.7 PER
Career: 12.5 points, 9.1 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 2.2 turnovers, 48.2 FG%, 38.1 3PT%, 2.1 FTA, 87.5 FT%, 17.4 PER
Jerryd Bayless – Age: 23
2011-12 season: 18 points, 6.0 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 2.7 turnovers, 42.4 FG%, 42.3 3PT%, 4.5 FTA, 85.2 FT%, 17.7 PER
Career: 16.1 points, 5.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 2.9 turnovers, 41.2 FG%, 35 3PT%, 5.5 FTA, 82.2 FT%, 13.9 PER
Steve Nash – Age: 38
2011-12 season: 14.2 points, 12.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 4.2 turnovers, 53.2 FG%, 39 3PT%, 2.6 FTA, 89.4 FT%, 20.3 PER
Career: 16.6 points, 9.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 49.1 FG%, 42.8 3PT%, 3.2 FTA, 90.4 FT%, 20.2 PER
Jeremy Lin – Age: 23
2011-12 season: 19.6 points, 8.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 4.8 turnovers, 44.6 FG%, 32 3PT%, 7.0 FTA, 79.8 FT%, 19.9 PER
Career: 17.3 points, 7.6 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 steals, 4.2 turnovers, 43.7 FG%, 31.3 3PT%, 6.1 FTA, 79.3 FT%, 18.7 PER
Goran Dragic – Age: 26
2011-12 season: 15.9 points, 7.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 3.2 turnovers, 46.2 FG%, 33.7 3PT%, 3.9 FTA, 80.5 FT%, 18.0 PER
Career: 15.2 points, 6.3 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 3.3 turnovers, 44.4 FG%, 36.4 3PT%, 3.8 FTA, 73.7 FT%, 14.8 PER
Kyle Lowry – Age: 26
2011-12 season: 16.0 points, 7.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 3.1 turnovers, 40.9 FG%, 37.4 3PT%, 4.7 FTA, 86.4 FT%, 18.9 PER
Career: 13.9 points, 6.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 2.5 turnovers, 42 FG%, 33 3PT%, 4.9 FTA, 78.3 FT%, 15.9 PER
While the numbers up to this point cannot guarantee an accurate portrayal of what will be produced starting next season, these statistics do give us a few clues, at least.
Firstly, Steve Nash is still the best point guard of this group and is still playing at a ridiculously high level. His impressive numbers remain comparable with his career averages, and even if he were to begin slowing down in 2012-13, he would still have a couple of good years left in him, if not All Star caliber seasons. Barring a major nose-dive in production over the course of one off-season, Steve Nash is still going to be one of the better point guards in the NBA at 38-years-old.
Secondly, while the sample size is incredibly small (64 career games played over two seasons), the only evidence we do have suggests that Jeremy Lin will pull away from the pack as the second-best point guard in this group, and could possibly top Nash within the next couple of years. If you’re thinking in one-to-two year terms, I’d still take Nash, but if you start to think about three years down the road, four, five, the answer should be Lin.
Jose Calderon probably continues to be an under-appreciated NBA point guard, but his inability to stay healthy and the fact that his age shows more than Nash (who is seven years older) will sour most fans on keeping Jose around. Calderon may very well be the third-best point guard on this list this season, but you would also have to assume that he’ll be on the bottom of the list, or just slightly above it, within a year or two. If the Raptors acquire one of Nash or Lin, I’ll say good riddance to Jose, but I don’t want the Raptors to amnesty him. As I’ve said before, there has to be a taker out there for his sizable expiring contract, doesn’t there?
Where these numbers really tell a story for me is in the Lowry/Dragic debate, and in the Jerryd Bayless debate. If you have to give up pieces you feel are valuable to get Kyle Lowry or if you have to overpay to sign Goran Dragic long-term, then why not just stay the course with Bayless, who has proven he can compete with the productivity of those guards when given the minutes and the opportunity? Unless a team throws an absurd amount of money at Bayless in an offer-sheet (which doesn’t seem that crazy considering some of the contracts being handed out), I’d much rather go forward with a relatively cheap Bayless than go all-in for one of Lowry or Dragic.
Plus, if the Raptors can finally seal the deal with Nash, I’d be quite interested in seeing what Bayless can do under Steve’s tutelage for a couple of years.
If the Raptors head into next season with Steve Nash or Jeremy Lin as their starting point guard, it will be an already improved team. If they swing and miss on both of those guys, I’d like to see Jerryd Bayless get a chance to finally prove his worth as a full-time starter. Either way, I’m hoping Toronto can get something in return for Jose Calderon’s expiring contract, that way the amnesty can be saved in the event it needs to be used on Linas Kleiza or Amir Johnson (sorry, Scott).