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Is Greivis Vasquez the Raptors Next Jose Calderon?

The Raptors had one of the better pass-first point guards in Jose Calderon for 7.5 seasons and now 10 months after Calderon was traded, Toronto has acquired a younger version in Greivis Vasquez.

Dallas Mavericks Media Day 2013-2014Former President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo always seemed to be looking for something different than what Calderon brought to the table and after an unknown number of (numerous) failed attempts, he finally managed to trade the veteran point guard last season in a multi-player deal for Rudy Gay.  With Murphy’s Law in full effect and the Raptors dead last for assists in the NBA, new President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri wanted his team to move the ball better and in a multi-player deal acquired the pass-first point guard Vasquez for Gay.

The biggest differences between Vasquez and Calderon are age and experience.  At 32 years old, Calderon is 5+ years older than Vasquez and this is Calderon’s ninth NBA season while Vasquez is in the final year of his rookie deal.

Both players were 24-years old in their first NBA season.  Calderon previously played in the Spanish ACB league while Vasquez played 4 years at Maryland and Calderon was born in Spain while Vasquez was born in Venezuela, but the similarities greatly outweigh the differences.

Calderon adapted quickly to the NBA game and had the rare 50/40/90 shooting season in his third year, that’s 50+ percent from the field, 40+ percent from three-point range and 90+ percent from the free throw line.  He started 56 of 82 games that season and averaged 11.2 points and 8.3 assists.  He is still a great shooter.

Vasquez got off to a slower start in the NBA, but in his third season, he started 78 games for the Hornets (now Pelicans) and averaged 13.9 points and 9 assists.  His shooting steadily improved to 43.3 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three-point range, but still had room to get better.  This year, he has been shooting 49 percent on 2-point field goal attempts and 93.8 percent at the free throw line providing some evidence that the improvement has continued.  His impressive assist rate of 44.9 percent in his third season was actually higher than Calderon’s at the same age.

This season in Sacramento, Vasquez was starting, but minutes were being split with Isaiah Thomas, so his totals are down from New Orleans and his role changed making year-to-year comparisons difficult.

Another difference between Calderon and Vasquez has been usage rate and turnovers.  Calderon has averaged a stingy 1.7 turnovers per game for his career, but he is typically used in just 17 percent of team plays.  Vasquez was usage rate was 23 percent in his third season and his turnover rate was 3.2 times per game, not quite as stingy as Calderon, but still pretty good considering how often he was involved in a play and his assist rate.  This season, Calderon has a turnover ratio of 9.3 percent and Vasquez is at 9.4 percent, so both guards are looking after the ball.

Perhaps the biggest single negative comparison that can be made between these two players is they are both considered slow and a defensive liability.  They have nearly identical (poor) defensive ratings.  However, where Calderon has good size for a point guard at 6’3, Vasquez is big at 6’6.5 in shoes.  It might be grasping at straws to say Vasquez could become the better defender, but at least Vasquez should be harder to shoot over.

TOR_Lowry_KyleEvery indication is the Raptors have come full circle from last season by bringing back Vasquez for Gay and that includes the seemingly inevitable point guard controversy that Calderon created with each new point guard Colangelo challenged him with.  Incumbent starting point guard Kyle Lowry may or may not get traded eventually like his predecessors (as speculated by just about everybody), but it’s a certainty that he isn’t going to relinquish his minutes or starting position willingly to anyone else.

The fans in Toronto have seen this movie before, they watched it with Calderon over 7+ seasons.  Vasquez will probably run the offense better than Lowry and gain favor for that, but his defense will create many justified detractors.

Everything old is new again in Toronto.  Bring on the drama once again.

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.