After failing to make the playoffs last season, Pistons owner Tom Gores made the call to change course. Ed Stefanski was hired to run the front office and his first big move was to hire Dwane Casey, reigning NBA Coach of the Year. The roster is set, a new coaching staff and front office is in place and training camp is around the corner. In the days leading up to its opening we’ll look at each player on the roster and assess how he fits into the puzzle for the 2018-19 season. Today: Jose Calderon. Friday: Ish Smith.
ID card:36 years old, entering 14th season, 6-foot-3, point guard
Last year in review:Calderon was added by Cleveland to give LeBron James another 3-point threat and to be a capable floor general for the second-team offense. His role fluctuated throughout the season as the Cavaliers attempted to field the right mix of players, starting 32 games but at times falling out of the rotation. Despite the yo-yoing of his role, Calderon performed well. He shot .464 from the 3-point arc and averaged 4.5 points and 2.1 assists against 0.7 turnovers in 16 minutes a game. Even in the playoffs, Calderon’s role swung from game to game. In the seven-game win over Indiana in the opening round, Calderon came off the bench in the first two games, didn’t play in Game 3, started the next three games and then didn’t play in Game 7.
Career at a glance:Calderon was a mature player, 24 and a recognized international star, when he made his NBA debut with Toronto in 2005. He was part of Spain’s great era that included the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, Sergio Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez. Calderon has started 591 of 846 career games, averaging 9.2 points and 5.9 assists in 27 minutes a game. He’s a career .411 3-point shooter, which ranks No. 8 among active players, who’s made 87 percent of his free throws. In 2012-13, Calderon’s .461 3-point percentage led the NBA as did his .981 free-throw percentage in 2008-09 when he made 151 out of 154.
Anticipated role: Calderon is slotted in as the No. 3 point guard, but consider him more than a “break glass in case of emergency” option at the position for a few reasons. One is his prior relationship with Dwane Casey, who coached Calderon for 1½ seasons in Toronto before Calderon was traded to the Pistons in January 2013. Calderon, despite his natural point guard instincts, has had plenty of experience and success playing off of the ball in the NBA, including most recently when he played off of James in Cleveland. Casey showed in Toronto – when he would often field lineups that included Kyle Lowry, Fred Van Vleet and Delon Wright, all primarily point guards – that he was more than willing to play unconventional lineups. Don’t be surprised to see Calderon playing with Reggie Jackson or Ish Smith.
It will be a good season if…: Calderon’s minutes come not out of necessity but out of a desire to get more 3-point shooting on the floor. Jackson has missed big chunks of the past two seasons due to injury – a knee in 2016-17, an ankle in 2017-18 – so it was important that the Pistons add a No. 3 point guard capable of handling an everyday obligation. Calderon, even at 36 – and he’ll turn 37 in the first week of training camp – still appears able to hold down a rotation spot. But if the Pistons can squeeze 75-plus games out of Jackson, they’ll be able to use Calderon more selectively and not risk wearing him down.