Originally Posted by John Hollinger
Backup guard No. 1: Jose Calderon, Raptors
This is probably going to shock some people, so I'll just go ahead and say it: Calderon, right now, is the third-best guard in the East.
Go ahead and laugh. Get it out of your system.
Done? Good. Now let's look at the numbers. Calderon ranks fourth among Eastern Conference guards in PER; he's a millimeter behind T.J. Ford, who is out indefinitely, and of course trails Wade and Billups.
But he's way ahead of the others. Vince Carter, Richard Hamilton and Michael Redd are eating his dust, and no other point guard in the East rates in the top 50 in PER. (If you're looking for Jason Kidd, by the way, there's more on him below.)
You might think Calderon's numbers are so good because he's been beating up on second-teamers for half the season. Actually, no: His PER has gone up since Ford went out and now is as high as it's been all season. In his 20 games as a starter, he's averaging 13.5 points, 9.9 assists, and shooting 50.0 percent from the field. The other overlooked part is that he's making only 1.5 turnovers per game.
Let me repeat that for emphasis: 9.9 assists. 1.5 turnovers.
That's amazing. To show you how amazing, let's look at a stat I keep called "pure point rating." I created it to replace assist-turnover ratio, which tends to reward point guards who never penetrate. Pure point rating produces more valid ratings of a player's ability as a distributor by rewarding production instead of just making a ratio. (If you're curious, the formula is: Pure Point = (100* ((Assists * 2/3) - Turnovers))/Minutes.)
So … care to guess who's first in pure point ratio this season? Hint: it's not Steve Nash or Chris Paul. It's Calderon, by a fair amount.
No, he's not the scoring threat that Nash or Paul are, but Calderon is insanely efficient at running the offense and makes his shots, and that makes him a far more valuable player than people realize.
As for my arguments about preferring players who have established this level of performance, Calderon has a far better case than you might think. He played fantastic last season too and had the biggest PER jump in the league, though the voters chose to pretend he didn't exist in the Most Improved Player voting.
In fact, Calderon's 2006-07 PER ranked eighth among NBA point guards, and sixth among all guards in the East. To use one All-Star competitor as an example, his mark last season was not only better than Richard Hamilton's, it would have been the best mark of Hamilton's career.
So Calderon has been better than anyone else at his position except Billups, and his performance history suggests it's either not a fluke or a very small one. He's on a team with only one other viable scorer and, thanks to his skillful playmaking, has them in the top half of the league in offensive efficiency.
So if, after all this, you think he isn't an All-Star, I have only one question. Other than saying, "He's just not what I think of when I think of an All-Star," what case is there for Jose Calderon not to be an All-Star this year?