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Jump-Ball – The PG Situation

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It’s pretty obvious what the hot topic is this summer for the Toronto Raptors – the PG situation. It’s become increasingly clear that the current situation is not exactly ideal, and with Jose’s recent comments to the foreign media, it sounds more and more like the Ford-Calderon duo is about to come to an end. Calderon is a restricted free agent and wants to start. Ford has also made it clear he wants to run his own team.

Something has to budge…time for the HQ's own version of Spy vs. Spy...

HOWLAND: To put it bluntly, I don’t think there is much of a debate here Calderon is the PG for this team. The facts are he is healthy, has a great chemistry with out best player (which is fairly unexpected considering the pre-existing relationship between Ford and Bosh) and is simply the better player. He has stronger character, displays all of the traits you want in your PG, and has earned his stripes to lead.

I can’t think of one good reason to trade him. The argument that you can get a better player for him (in a sign and trade) than you can for Ford is a little silly. Of course Calderon has more value, he’s better! What I don’t understand is why you want to deal the better player? In the new NBA the most important position is PG. The game is faster, and the ball is in the hands of the PG more than ever. I want it in Calderon’s hands.

FRANCHISE: I want it in Calderon’s hands too, but I also want a team with superior talent at other positions as well next season. The reality, you can’t have both so which way do you go? Right now, Ford’s trade value is about the same as Wally Szczerbiak’s and can you start the season again with both, especially after Jose’s recent comments? I don’t know, unless you want to ride it out for another season and hope TJ’s trade value improves, how else do you start making the dramatic improvements this team needs?

HOWLAND: I think the improvement starts with the classic addition by subtraction. Time to move Ford and his me-first attitude as this situation, if it continues next year, could poison the locker room. I expect a Ford move and I expect it early on this off-season. BC knows that in order to re-sign Calderon he has to move Ford and show him that the starting job is his. If not, Calderon may get a big salary from elsewhere that the team just can’t match. Can someone say Miami? What then? Lose him for nothing? There is just too much incentive to deal Ford now. If you move Ford you don’t have too much cash locked into the PG spot, you can bring a talent back in, and you have a happy locker room.

Sure Ford has less trade value but the benefits of moving him are way more than the player he brings back. Besides, there is enough depth on this team to do a 2 for 1, or 3 or 2 and bring back a player similar to what a 1 for 1 deal would achieve in dealing Calderon.

FRANCHISE: I don’t agree that moving Ford has a greater benefit than getting a player of superior talent in return for Jose. And I think our respective "playing GM" articles last week showed just how tough it’s going to be to upgrade this team without moving key pieces. Yes, there is depth on the Raptors but that's the problem...too much depth and not enough starting level talent.

But you do make a good point about the timing of things...you'd think that if BC wants to keep Jose and show him that he'll be the top gun, he'll need to show Ford the door asap. So you expect really in the next month to see Ford go?

Miami and other teams make sense (hey, the Heat took a flyer on Smush Parker for Pete sakes)...but the problem is until the draft, it's just not logical for teams to start throwing out offers until they see who picks whom. And by then, it's only a few days until free agent mania.

Tonight's draft lottery should shine a bit more light on things so we'll see if Miami gets a top 2 spot and a crack at Rose. If so, can't see TJ heading to the Heat and then what options are left? Bottom line though like you said is that BC needs to make a choice and follow through. Yes Toronto has the first right of refusal on Calderon, but do you wait that long and worry about damaging the rapport between him and the team? If the foreign media is correct, he's made some pretty strong statements about the role he's looking for now that the season is over.

Interestingly, how Colangelo handles this situation might in the end be similar to what he did with Steve Nash. Perhaps he’s made up his mind a long time ago and simply throws down an offer Jose can’t refuse. The two (Calderon and Nash) are quite similar (uncanny floor generals and shooters and below average defenders) so maybe BC really has switched gears and is ready to move Ford. I'm just not sure though...that's a big admission that he whiffed on the Villanueva trade...

HOWLAND: That’s the other thing. Calderon has to remind Colangelo of Nash. Both took time to develop, love the pick-and-roll and neither is a great defender (albeit that isn’t really a plus). Look if BC was wrong to trade for Ford (someone here has been saying that all along) he won’t be shy to rectify the mistake. Look at Fred Jones. Or better yet look at his time in Phoenix. He wasn’t scared to trade Jason Kidd to bring in Marbury and he was even less hesitant to ship him out of town. That is one of BC’s greatest assets, he turns negatives into positives even when he has to admit he was wrong.

I will be absolutely shocked if he doesn’t move Ford, maybe even draft night. Unlike last season BC has a first round pick and a handful of expiring contracts. He has the assets to be active. It’s not like Ford has a huge salary or is not movable. It’s clear that Calderon can play heavy minutes. If he thinks he can bring in a cheap back-up for Jose he will. The situation just has to be fixed quickly because when people think back on this season the Ford/Calderon issue will always be one of the first things that come to mind. You can’t have this cloud over the team when training camp starts. It would be an unhealthy start and lead to an unhealthy season.

Will BC need to go all out to keep Jose, much like he did with eventual MVP Nash?

Will BC need to go all out to keep Jose, much like he did with eventual MVP Nash?

FRANCHISE: I agree with you in that both can’t be here next year and I’m a much bigger fan of Calderon than Ford, as much as I’ve been trying to stir the pot. However I’m just not sold on how BC is going to deal Ford. His contract isn’t Marbury-sized...but it’s not the smallest either. I’d like to see him go, but I just think that moving Calderon, as much as I’d hate to see him be shipped out, is a better option for acquiring superior talent for this team next year. It's going to be another tough year of fighting for a final playoff spot if Ford is dealt for spare parts just to be rid of him, therefore resulting in minimal talent upgrades.

And what about Chris Bosh? Something no one's really gotten into is the CB4 effect of this dilemma. Remember, Bosh opted for a Lebron and Wade-ish smaller length contract. So if Ford goes, the Raptors play .500 ball again or perhaps miss the playoffs entirely, how does that affect Chris’s future with the team?

HOWLAND: The CB4 question is an interesting one. I think CB4 simply wants to win. The real debate is what move is more conducive to winning. One of the biggest problems I have with keeping Ford is that whose to say how he will react if BC brings in another "star". Will Ford be willing to be the third, maybe even fourth option if Bargnani breaks out? I’m skeptical. He wants to be the man as much as he wants to start and I am unsure how willing he is to take a back seat to anyone not named Bosh.

What baffles my mind is how Ford was always known as a winner before he came to Toronto. At Texas he won, when he was healthy in Milwaukee they won. Something has changed. I’m not sure what it is but something is different.

Unfortunately I go back to the inevitable, which is you get something (in dealing Ford) or you get nothing (in watching Calderon sign a big deal elsewhere). I would rather have something. Either way I expect BC to solve this issue quickly. It is these sorts of issues that make the off-season so fun to discuss.

FRANCHISE: Look, in no way am I arguing that they let Jose go for nothing. That’s insanity. But a sign-and-trade to get this club to the next level? Now that’s something you do have to consider, no matter how big of a Jose fan you are.

But a good point about Ford taking a back seat…could TJ play third-banana? I agree with you here, late in the season, I believe in my "pick your poison" piece, I talked about Ford having an inflated idea of his worth. Until he tunes in to reality, I don’t think he’ll be as successful as he could in this league as he’ll still be trying to take over games and play beyond his means. He was always a winner before I think because he was allowed to be "the man" and was facing competition that allowed that possibility. But that’s just not the case anymore, especially with his injury concerns.

For the record, I still think that without Jose, Ford could be an effective top tier point guard in the league. Is he better than Jose for this current group though? To that I have to say no. However like his previous tenure with the Bucks, and at Texas, if he can find a team where he’s option 1A, perhaps it would work.

So here’s a question maybe to cap things off; how much do you pay Jose come July 1? It has to be more than Ford right?

HOWLAND: I’m not sure it needs to be more. It will probably be about the same amount. Steve Nash gets about 10 million a year, and Ford gets 8. You have to think it will be closer to 8 million per. Even writing this is a little bit surreal. Who would have thought after his rookie season that Jose would be in this position?

FRANCHISE: I think if you are bent on dealing Ford at whatever the cost, then like you said, don’t think the salary needs to be more than what TJ makes. Because by moving or intending to move Ford, you’re letting him and his agent know that Jose is top priority. However if Ford is in BC’s picture next year, I think you have to at least match Ford’s money or slightly top it. While Jose was peaches and cream during the season, based on his recent comments it sounds like being the starting point guard in a good situation is priority numero uno now. So if Colangelo keeps Ford, what sort of leverage does he have to appease Jose and his agent? I think the money piece would be the only possible trump card and therefore he’ll have to go over the top.

From all we’ve seen though, Jose seems to value being in a winning situation where he can have an impact on success more than having the most loot. So this whole situation is going to be very tricky for Colangelo, and how he handles it I think will be his first real test as a GM. The Bargnani draft pick is maybe even before this, but the results we may not know for a while. Keeping or trading TJ will most likely have a much more immediate impact on the franchise from a number of angles.

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