The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

Ford or Calderon, You Decide

Posted by Blake Murphy on February 13, 2008

Now that TJ Ford has returned to the Raptors line-up and is roughly 75% (according to reports, though he says he’s 100%) the debate is bound to come up pretty soon: Who should the starting point guard of the Toronto Raptors be?

In times past, the question would have been whether the Raptors should trade one of our mighty point guard duo to shore up other positions. In the offseason, I was literally at the throats of some friends, frusrated with this asinine complaint – we have too much depth at the point, we don’t need both, they can’t co-exist. I hope, by now, my point has been proven: point guard depth is a blessing, not a curse. Other teams would kill for two reliable point guards. The plattoon allows you to consistently have a playmaker on the floor, and hedges you against bad games from a single player. Finally, players as a whole are injury prone and you absolutely cannot rely on a single player to stay healthy for 82 games a year. If the issue of Jose vs. TJ on the team hasn’t been quashed for you yet, please seek help. Instead, we now face the dilemma of Jose vs. TJ in the starting role.

This article is not meant to argue a point one way or the other, until the end. Rather, it is to lay out the case for both players and propose to the readership of the ODC the question: Who should the starting point guard of the Toronto Raptors be?

The Case for Jose
Obviously, Jose has done a great job starting in place of TJ. Jose’s numbers are an astonishing 14.3-3.6-9.9 on 54% shooting (46.6% from long range, and 92% from the line) as a starter in 2007-08, numbers that are not only close to the levels of the top point guards in the league, but are probably All-Star worthy (I’m looking at you, Gilbert). The team has gone 20-16 with Jose as the starter (7-7 with TJ), and you must also take into account a tough schedule and the poor play of Andrea Bargnani during this stretch. The numbers don’t lie – Jose is a starting NBA point guard.

Additionally, Bosh’s numbers have been much better with Jose as a starter. While some of this can be attributed to Bosh’s early season injury, some can also be attributed to Jose’s selfless play and ability to get Bosh involved early and often. Jose also generally does a better job of getting everyone involved equally from the get-go, as evidenced by the fact that the Raptors consistently have balanced first quarter scoring. This is huge for a team, as it is obviously beneficial to have all of your key players into the flow of the game quickly.

The final argument in favor of Jose is that he has earned the job. Sure, it sucks for TJ to lose his job because of an injury, but such is life. Football is killer for these types of situations, and it’s not a case of TJ’s injury costing him the job but the discovery of Jose as a better option. Jose has performed admirably as the starter and has thus earned the job. To pull him out of the starting lineup would be insulting, would alter chemistry, and, though Jose would never admit it, would likely decrease the chances of Jose being eager to sign back with the Raptors this summer.

The Case for TJ
This is TJ’s team to run. Bryan Colangelo invested several years and $8M per season in Ford for him to run the team. The team has been built to suit TJ’s strengths as a floor general and he has, in turn, altered his game to suit his teammates. No player should lose their starting job to injury, especially in the NBA. To keep TJ from the starting lineup is kin to changing the entire direction of the franchise, something Colangelo is probably not willing to accept. TJ is also Bosh’s best friend, and a move to please TJ is likely a move to please Bosh, though CB4 probably finds himself pondering the Jose vs. TJ debate on his own.

TJ is also a fantastic point guard. It is difficult to compare TJ and Jose as point guards because they bring different things to the table: While Jose is a better shooter and is less turnover prone, TJ causes more match-up problems because of his all-out attack and is a better scorer. TJ is also better at breaking down defenses. TJ’s numbers, 12.1-6.6 on 47% this year and 14-7.9 last year, are nothing to dismiss, and the number of big games he’s had for us dictate that he is a more valuable player.

A final argument in favor of TJ is that Jose runs the bench squad better. Not only is Jose better acclimated with the bench players, he is also afforded more opportunities to be creative with that particular group (Rasho opens the lane up for him, and the rest of the crew are shooters Jose can drive-and-kick to). While you could make that same claim for TJ, the proof has generally been that Jose can get more out of the second unit than anyone else can. This seems like a pro-Jose argument, but his flexibility and team-first attitude is actually reason to send him to the bench. Jose also claims not be impartial between the two roles while TJ’s ability to handle being number two is uncertain.

My Take
In general, I feel an injury is cause enough to lose your job. Those are the breaks. If a better player emerges from your absence, it is then his job to lose and yours to fight for. With that said, there are other compelling arguments favoring TJ Ford, not the least of which is his relationship with Bosh off the floor and on it (they form one of the best pick-and-roll combos in the NBA). On the other hand, Jose has performed unbelievably well and is officially a top-tier point guard. Obviously, since I was able to outline the arguments for both, I have a tough time choosing a side.

In the end though, I have to go with El Ocho, Jose Calderon. His numbers are off-the-wall good and he has turned former role-players into key cogs without taking touches from CB4. His shooting and ability to change speeds keeps opposing point guards guessing constantly, and his ability to play mistake free ball makes him an attractive option for a believer in conservative basketball, like myself. TJ is a great player and I have no problem with him as the starter or closer (since he is a better scorer). For now, though, while TJ nurses himself back to health in time for the playoffs, Jose should see the lion’s share of the minutes and hear his name announced nightly by Herbie Kuhn.

Debate It!
Obviously, these arguments are not exhaustive – there are many more out there for either player. I picked the top three arguments I could think of for each and proposed them here, and I invite you to develop more and argue them. This article has been penned to spark debate and discussion. As Raptor fans (sorry to those who aren’t) and basketball fans, this is a discussion that should mean a lot to you. Who will run your team the rest of the season? Who gets the most out of and does the best for your team? For non-Raptor fans, it’s still a fundamental set of basketball questions: should someone lose their job because of injury?; is a scorer or a passer better to run a team?; is this the best point guard duo in the NBA? If these questions don’t get you up in arms for debate, I’m not sure anything will.

So this article is here to spark the debate. I want to hear it from all of you: Who should the starting point guard of the Toronto Raptors be?

3 Responses to “Ford or Calderon, You Decide”

  1. Sam Cassady Says:

    I dont think the question here is who should be the ’starter’ vs the lowly bench player (the Raps are too unselfish for that), but rather who fits better with the starting line-up vs. the bench.

    Talent-wise, both players are obviosly of the starter calibre. I think that’s obvious and Blake touched on that above. Most teams dont have this equality which is why starter vs. bencher is just a contested issue - ego issues.

    I like Jose because I think he better fits int the starting unit. Why? Well remember last year how the Raptors ALWAYS seemed to start slow, well with Jose, Im not seeing that.

    Also, when Chris Bosh is on the floor he needs to be the focus. When TJ runs the point - like it or not - he handles the ball ALOT, and I think it kinda wastes Bosh’s minutes. Jose swings the ball more, and plus, when Bosh gets doubled Jose can hit 3s, TJ cant.

    TJ is the perfect fit for the second unit. He has energy and can create for players of lesser talent. TJ/Kapono/Delfino/Hump/Rasho is a pretty good, defensive, high energy second unit that will allow TJ to dominate.

  2. This Dave Power Says:

    This is a tough topic to tackle, both are strong in different aspects of the game. On one hand Jose is an incredibly efficient player who gets everyone involved and has developed a consistency on his jump shot that would be compareable to steve nash (2 time MVP. He picks his spots as well as any player in the league, very rarily forcing the issue, hense his high assist to turnover ratio.

    For TJ, he doesn’t mentally think of the game as well as jose, but makes up for it with his relentless push to the rim. Idealy when you are the fastest player on the court at all times, your opposing defenders are going to need help, thus opening passing lanes for TJ to dump the ball off when defenders double down. I often find myself ready to pull my hair out when I see TJ taking an off balance shot or jumping into the air out of control but as I’m about to rip out my hair the ball usually lands in the basket or in another Raptors hands for a free jumper.

    My choice is Jose , as he is all star caliber and does get our superstar chris bosh involved in the game more often than TJ. That being said, TJ off the bench is incredible, it gives our bench another scoring threat (TJ, Kapono, Delfino) and gives him the ability to be himself more and not worry about getting the ball to chris bosh as often, because he will be the star on the floor at most periods of the game.

    Like Blake had mentioned, injuries happen in the NBA, having a top tier back point guard can never be a bad thing.

  3. Jack Says:

    I also like Jose better with the starting unit but I think TJ is the better player, when healthy. TJ creates more than Jose does and can really give Kapono and Delfino better looks when he comes off the bench. We need his presence more with the second unit when Bosh is off the floor which is why Jose should start. I would also like to see them both on the floor more often, especially towards the end because their different styles may lead to a better team. I love them both.

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