With Kyle Lowry resting a strained adductor muscle, Jose Calderon and John Lucas III have been sharing the minutes at point guard for the Raptors through three pre-season games. Calderon has shot the ball slightly better than Lucas has and has committed two less turnovers in about 10 less minutes of action (Jose only played 14 minutes on Friday night because of hamstring tightness), but for the most part, Lucas has either matched or one-upped Calderon’s productivity on the court so far.
Nowhere has this been more apparent than on the defensive end. Sure, Calderon has recorded three steals to Lucas’ zero, but those who know basketball know that steals and blocks, while nice, don’t begin to tell the whole story when evaluating defensive play. What I’ve seen so far is Calderon getting torched by Sergio Llull and Brandon Knight and being the main reason for a lot of team defensive breakdowns early in games, only for Lucas to come in and steady the ship, granted, against mostly weaker guards.
For as much as we’ve all marveled at Lucas’ ability to score in bunches early in this pre-season, it’s been his superior defence that has helped the Raptors rebound from early deficits created by Calderon and others in the starting lineup.
Hopefully, this should help quiet the clowns who actually believed Calderon could push Lowry for the starting job in Toronto. Lowry is an effective offensive point guard who also happens to be among the top defensive players at his position. He’s starting when healthy, end of story.
Pre-season results mean next to nothing, and the usual porous defence hasn’t changed anything in my opinion of Jose. If anything, I’m only more impressed with the point guard depth the Raptors have at their disposal. Besides, Calderon is best suited to a bench role anyway, and at his best, I still think he can spearhead an excellent offensive second unit. In addition, we’ll all appreciate him a lot more as a solid, veteran leader of the bench than we will if we have to watch him be largely responsible for digging the team early holes as a starter.
But as is being asked everywhere among Raptors fans right now, what happens to Lucas when Lowry comes back? Dwane Casey is probably going to try to get Lowry as many pre-season minutes as possible with the rest of the starters, especially with Andrea Bargnani and perhaps even Jonas Valanciunas. But I’m not talking just pre-season.
If JL3 continues to impress, even in limited exhibition minutes while Lowry is worked back in, will the defensive minded Casey, who has talked about how much he loves Lucas (literally), really bury him on the bench come Halloween night and the rest of the regular season?
The obvious answers are that the Raptors are probably still thinking about trading Calderon’s expiring contract somewhere along the line this season, and in the mean time, Casey can give the undersized Lucas some spot minutes at the two with one of Lowry or Calderon on the floor.
But it begs the question, if what we’ve seen from Lucas in a very small sample of about 74 minutes so far is an indication of what he can bring to the table this season, then would Bryan Colangelo and co. perhaps consider moving Calderon earlier than expected?
Furthermore, while many were (foolishly) debating a possible point guard controversy between Lowry and Calderon heading into training camp, perhaps the real story here is going to be a backup point guard controversy. Not in the sense that Lucas or Calderon will actually cause problems within the team, but in the sense that neither of them is going to push Lowry for the starting job, while from what I’ve seen, they’re already pushing each other for the No. 2 job.
Oh, and apparently there was some B.S. Calderon to the Lakers rumour on twitter today.
For those asking about Calderon-to-Lakers Twitter talk today, Calderon’s agent Mark Bartelstein says: “There’s absolutely nothing to it.”
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) October 14, 2012