I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t think trading Jose Calderon is as dire a need as a lot of other Raptors fans believe. It’s not the worst thing in the world if Calderon is the team’s starting point guard heading into next season. Having said that, I’m obviously still of the belief that if you can find a deal that gives the Raptors more flexibility, draft picks and young assets to build with, I’m all for it.
With that, and given that the NBA’s trade deadline is now just a week away (Thursday, March 15), here are three realistic trade proposals I’ve come up with involving Calderon and the Raptors. The key word here is “realistic.” I didn’t try to find trades that land the Raptors a superstar or a first round pick from a cellar dwelling team. These are all deals that I believe could conceivably help both teams involved and that would all work, according to ESPN’s trade machine.
Trade 1: Toronto trades Jose Calderon to Portland for Raymond Felton ($7.5 million expiring contract) and a draft pick
This is the trade most fans are talking about, and it does make a lot of sense for both teams. Portland gets an obvious upgrade at the point in Calderon, who they can keep next season, while the Raptors get a point guard who can simply finish the season in Toronto, but more importantly, the Raps get an expiring contract. I would want the Trail Blazers to throw in a draft pick, as Calderon is a much more valuable player than Felton is right now. The problem is that the Blazers could be a lottery team, and I can’t see them parting with a lottery pick just to acquire Jose.
Trade 2: Toronto trades Jose Calderon to Atlanta for Kirk Hinrich ($8.1 million expiring contract) and a draft pick
While Josh Smith could be on his way out of Atlanta, as off right now, the Hawks are still a legitimate Eastern Conference playoff team that I can’t see blowing things up and rebuilding just yet. They could be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but there are also stretches where they look poised to make another deep run. With this deal, Atlanta improves greatly at the point and gets a lead guard who does a fine job taking care of the ball, something I’m sure a playoff team might value. Just like with my proposed Portland trade, the Raptors get a half capable point guard on a fairly large expiring contract to finish off this rebuilding season. And just like the Portland deal, I’d still want the Hawks to throw in a draft pick to even things out. Atlanta should be picking somewhere between 17 and 25 in the draft, so they might be more willing to cough up a first round pick than the Blazers. Though perhaps second round picks are more realistic in these proposed deals.
While I see a Calderon for Harris swap as “realistic,” I would not support such a trade. Harris will still be owed $8.5 million next season, so the Raptors would basically be downgrading their position at the point simply to save a couple million dollars next year. For anyone thinking Devin Harris is still a younger point guard with some untapped potential, he’s actually only 17 months younger than Calderon. This would be making a deal simply for the sake of making a deal. It doesn’t make much sense for the Raptors. As for the other proposed trade with the Jazz, the Raptors could simply take on a $9.7 million trade exception (from the Mehmet Okur trade) and perhaps even take Utah’s second round pick. Minnesota owns Utah’s first round pick this season (lottery protected), and I doubt the Jazz would be willing to part with Golden State’s top-seven protected first round pick. A trade for the exception, without a player coming to Toronto in return, would give the Raptors more financial flexibility over the next year and would likely give them a better chance in the draft lottery.
If the Mavericks weren’t in the running for Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard this summer (and I believe they are the dark horse team that could scoop up both), I’d suggest a Calderon for Kidd trade that nets the Raptors a $10.1 million expiring contract. While I think Calderon would be an upgrade over Kidd for Dallas, I don’t think the Mavs would be willing to mess much with their chemistry or would be willing to mess with their advantageous cap situation this off-season.
Worth mentioning: The two teams who might just need Jose Calderon the most, or at least who are in most need of a point guard, are the Lakers and the Magic. The problem is that neither team has the type of assets Toronto covets and even the Lakers’ trade exception from the Lamar Odom deal wouldn’t cover Calderon’s nearly $10 million salary this season. For the Lakers or Magic to acquire Jose from the Raptors, the deal would have to involve a third team or more. If L.A. or Orlando can get a third team involved that brings attractive assets to the table for Toronto, then either team could be in the mix.
All of the proposed deals mentioned involve the Raptors clearing cap space for this off-season, but it’s important to remember that Toronto probably doesn’t figure into any of the big free agent targets’ plans. If Calderon had two years or more left on his deal, I’d want the Raptors to rid themselves of that contract as soon as possible. But realistically, Jose’s contract doesn’t hamper the Raps this summer (Toronto should have at least $10 million in cap space) given the team’s still modest expectations.
This is why as enticing as cap space would be, I still say that the Raptors should be looking for draft picks or young assets in potential Calderon deals. If there isn’t a good deal to be made, then there’s nothing wrong with letting Jose run the offence with a team that will once again be young and fairly inexperienced next season.