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Let’s Trade Jose Calderon

Basketball Insiders takes a look at some potential trades for Knicks guard Jose Calderon.

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Yesterday, Marc Stein and Ian Begley of ESPN reported that the New York Knicks are looking to trade Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani as they continue to clear out their roster.

Calderon was acquired by the Knicks last offseason in the deal that sent Tyson Chandler back to the Dallas Mavericks. Calderon, age 33, has had a disappointing season so far in New York. However, as Stein and Begley pointed out, many teams around the league still value Calderon, who is a great shooter, good distributor and brings veteran experience (including international experience with the Spanish National team).

Calderon may have a limited market, however, considering his age and the fact that he is set to make an average of $7,250,000 per season through 2016-17. The remaining two years on Calderon’s deal limits his value, especially in a league where it seems like every team is set at point guard. Another issue is that any team trading for Calderon cannot send any contracts that go beyond this season back to the Knicks as they are looking to shed salary for the upcoming offseason.

Calderon is a career 41.1 percent shooter from three-point range and has a career true shooting percentage (57.6) that falls in between Damian Lillard’s career true shooting percentage (56.5) and Stephen Curry’s (59.6). Calderon is also a good, though not elite, distributor with a career average of 6.7 assists per game. However, Calderon has never been much of a defender and at age 33, he is likely to decline further in this area moving forward.

Also, consider that teams that are heavily invested in advanced statistics may be hesitant to trade for Calderon. Despite his shooting, Calderon has a career Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of just 17 and 11 for this season (which is below the league average of 15). Furthermore, for this season Calderon has a real plus-minus (RPM) rating of -4.26 and wins above replacement (WAR) rating of -0.94. However, last season Calderon had an RPM rating of -1.69 and a WAR rating of 1.02 while playing for the Dallas Mavericks, which is not great, but much better than this season. Unsurprisingly, Calderon’s Offensive RPM rating was good (+1.87), while his Defensive RPM rating was not (-3.56). These measurements do not represent Calderon’s worth perfectly, but they offer insight as to what he brings to the table at this point.

Considering all of this, the teams that are most likely interested in Calderon are contenders and fringe contenders looking for veteran experience and shooting at the point guard position and playoff contenders that are looking to keep pace in the playoff hunt.

Houston Rockets –

Outgoing Players: Jason Terry.
Incoming Players: Jose Calderon.

The Houston Rockets are arguably the one true contender that is not settled at point guard. Patrick Beverley is a tough defensive player and is shooting 38.8 percent from beyond-the-arc. However, this is just his third season in the NBA (though he is age 26) and he has never been a great distributor (3.4 assists per game this season). This isn’t a huge problem for the Rockets considering the fact that James Harden is such a talented distributor at shooting guard and initiates Houston’s offense so often. But adding a player like Calderon gives Houston another playmaker that can handle the ball at times, bolster the bench, setup teammates for easy scoring opportunities, and help stretch the floor for Dwight Howard to operate in the post.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is the poster-boy for advanced statistics among NBA executives, but that would not likely keep him from making a deal for Calderon. Consider that he recently signed Josh Smith, who was by almost all measures a negative impact on the Pistons. And while Calderon had a pretty bad Defensive RPM rating even last season with the Mavericks, the Rockets have the second best rated defense in the league (98.1 points per 100 possessions) and are thus well situated to withstand his defensive deficiencies.

The Knicks acquire veteran guard Jason Terry, whose contract is set to expire at the end of this season. New York gets what it is looking by replacing Calderon’s deal with an expiring one. Terry may have little interest in playing out the season with the Knicks, and both sides could end up agreeing to a buyout.

Detroit Pistons –

Outgoing Players: Joel Anthony and Luigi Datome.
Incoming Players: Jose Calderon.

The Detroit Pistons have been one of the hottest teams in the league since waiving Josh Smith on December 22. Detroit has won nine of its last ten games and is now just two games behind the eight seed Brooklyn Nets for the finals Playoff spot in the East.

A big part of the Pistons’ resurgence has been the redistribution of possessions from Smith to players like Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and even backup point guard D.J. Augustin.

In fact, Augustin has played well recently, and the Pistons could pass on Calderon for this reason. But Calderon has veteran experience, which could be valuable for a young Pistons team that is looking to make some noise in the Playoffs. Also, Calderon over his career beats out Augustin in categories like PER, true shooting percentage, assist percentage, and has a lower usage percentage. Of course Augustin is younger, has noticeably improved over the last few seasons, and is on a shorter, more affordable contract, which may make adding Calderon unnecessary. But having Calderon signed up for the 2016-17 season could give the Pistons a little leverage in contract negotiations with Jennings, whose contract expires after next season.

The Pistons could pass on this deal to avoid adding salary and because of Augustin’s recent play. But the chance to add another shooter who can run pick and roll with Drummond and Monroe while adding veteran experience may be something worth looking at. The fact that Calderon left the Pistons in free agency in 2013 for the Dallas Mavericks may also be an obstacle, however, Stan Van Gundy replaced former Pistons’ president Joe Dumars this season, so it may not be a big issue.

Again, the Knicks get the expiring deals they are looking for. Luigi Datome and Joel Anthony do not figure into the Knicks’ long-terms plans, but they serve their purpose in this deal.

Sacramento Kings –

Outgoing Players: Derrick Williams.
Incoming Players: Jose Calderon.

Yesterday Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reported that the Kings are looking to trade backup point guard Ramon Sessions. Sessions has been a disappointment this season, but starting point guard Darren Collison has been solid. So clearly the Kings’ front office, which has very high expectations for this roster, will be looking for some help at point guard.

Calderon would be a nice addition to the Kings’ young roster, especially considering that Sessions has a -11.6 net rating while on the court, and Ray McCallum has a -16.7 net rating. And the Kings shouldn’t be too concerned about Calderon’s contract considering that they have Collison locked up on a nice deal that averages out to $5,013,559 and expires after the 2016-17 season. Between Calderon and Collison, the Kings would have an annual investment of a little over $12 million per season, which is reasonable. However, the Kings will have to find another deal to move Sessions since the Knicks won’t take on his contract, which expires at the end of next season.

The Knicks receive Derrick Williams, who has shown flashes of potential but has failed to meet expectations after being drafted second overall in the 2011 draft. If he plays well, perhaps Phil Jackson would consider bringing him back after this season. If not, his contract expires and the Knicks will get their cap space.

Charlotte Hornets –

Outgoing Players: Lance Stephenson.
Incoming Players: Jose Calderon and Jason Smith.

The signing of Lance Stephenson last off-season looked like a coup for the Charlotte Hornets who were primed to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference this season. Stephenson agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal with a team option on the third year.

Unfortunately the partnership has been a failure thus far. Stephenson has been ineffective on the court, has missed time due to injuries and the Hornets are currently just 15-24 (ninth in the Eastern Conference). Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported in mid-December that the Hornets are looking to unload Stephenson onto teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers. Wojnarowski also reported that Stephenson’s inability to co-exist on the floor with point guard Kemba Walker and teammates off the court are among the main reasons the Hornets are inclined to move him.

When healthy and in the right state of mind, Stephenson can be a dynamic all-around player. Knicks president Phil Jackson has never shied away from taking on players with difficult personalities, and may be interested in adding Stephenson on his favorable deal.

The major issue is the fact that Stephenson is signed through next season, which goes against the Knicks current plan to clear the books for this off-season. However, there are no guarantees that the Knicks can land the key free agents they will be interested in after the season and adding a guy like Stephenson now could be a nice first step to restructuring the roster. The Knicks are reportedly not interested in moving Amar’e Stoudemire, however adding Stephenson’s salary would require the team to consider dumping his salary.

For the Hornets, they receive a steady point guard who can bolster the second unit and hopefully breathe life into the offense, which is currently rated 25th in offensive efficiency (99.3 points per 100 possessions). Calderon is an instant upgrade over players like Brian Roberts and Jannero Pargo and if given enough playing time would probably lead the team in assists. Calderon isn’t the answer to all that ails the Hornets, but in a top-heavy Eastern Conference he could help them secure one of the last Playoff spots. Charlotte also receives Jason Smith, another big body to add to the Hornets’ front-court rotation.

As previously mentioned, the market for Calderon is limited because of his age and contract. There are teams that could certainly benefit from his shooting, experience, and play-making, but it is unclear how much they are willing to sacrifice for that. The other issue is the fact that the Knicks are not looking to take on any salary beyond this year, which effectively eliminates several teams who could benefit by adding Calderon, such as the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors. It is possible that Calderon could be traded in a three-way deal like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert recently were, but the scenarios above represent straightforward deals that make sense for both teams.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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