Knicks Won’t Progress Until Derek Fisher Benches Jose Calderon


There’s a lot to be excited about regarding the New York Knicks these days. While they may not be close to contending for a top spot in the Eastern Conference, a blend of exciting young prospects and a healthy Carmelo Anthony has led onlookers to believe that they could be primed to thrive in the imminent future.

Amid the lofty levels of optimism, there are a few aspects of the current roster that are still reminiscent of their absolutely abhorrent last couple of seasons.

The main culprit is starting point guard Jose Calderon.

To put it bluntly, Calderon leaves much to be desired in basically every aspect of basketball. Offensively, he’s regressed to a startling degree since his prime with the Toronto Raptors, looking like a shell of his former self.

During the 2014-15 season, his first year in New York, he tallied a forgettable 9.1 points and 4.7 assists per game—his first sub 10.0-point and 5.0-assist showing since his rookie year.

This season, it seems the decline has gained even more traction. He’s averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 assists per game since the opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, and has looked increasingly worse with every outing.

For a player who head coach Derek Fisher claims to be starting due to his ball facilitation, 2.8 assists per game simply will not cut it.

Oct 22, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; New York Knicks guard Jose Calderon (3) reaches to keep the ball inbounds during the second half of the Boston Celtics 99-85 win over the New York Knicks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

While the main redeeming quality of his first year as a Knick was his .405 3-point field goal percentage, even that has dipped to an atrocious .250 percent since the beginning of the 2015-2016 season. There was a point in his career when Calderon was a respected offensive player, but at age 34, it seems those days are well behind him.

On the other end of the court, things become even more unsavory for the Spaniard. While he’s never excelled as a defender, he has reached a new level of ineptitude since arriving in the Big Apple.

With a shocking lack of speed, strength and tenacity, opposing guards have been running riot on Calderon during his tenure in New York. This has held especially true this season, as starting point guards averaged 21.2 PPG against the Knicks before Tyler Ennis started in Michael Carter-Williams‘ place on November 6.

Even notoriously limited players such as Matthew Dellavedova are grinning from ear to ear at the prospect of being guarded by him.

Nov 4, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) drives against New York Knicks guard Jose Calderon (3) in the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

In addition, his defensive shortcomings have acted as a negative effect on multiple other New York players. With point guards blowing by Calderon with ease, Knicks big men have often been forced into early foul trouble in an effort to clean up after his messes.

Foul trouble has been far and away Kristaps Porzingis‘ biggest issue since his NBA debut, and it’s clear that Calderon is a major reason behind that. With speedy guards penetrating the paint at will, there’s only so much a player like Porzingis can do to rectify Calderon’s mistakes.

It’s one thing for him to be a poor individual player, but the line should be drawn when his incompetence extends to his teammates.

The Knicks boast an offensive rating—an estimate of points per 100 possessions—of 11o.5 with Calderon on the bench, as opposed to 95.3 when he’s on the court. He’s had an average +/- of minus-4.8 so far this season, with opponent’s offensive rating clocking in at 106.3 when he’s playing and 103.4 when he’s not.

The Knicks are simply a better team without Calderon on the floor, and the fact that Derek Fisher hasn’t acknowledged this is worrying, to say the least.

What makes Calderon retaining the starting point guard role even harder to take is that the Knicks possess two infinitely better options on the bench in Jerian Grant and Langston Galloway.

Since acquiring Grant during the 2015 NBA draft, many have tagged him as the Knicks’ starting point guard for the foreseeable future. Blessed with radar-like court vision, impressive athleticism and stifling defensive ability, there seem to be no discernible holes in Grant’s game.

While the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard wasn’t expected to develop into a star right off the bat, he’s put together some incredibly promising performances so far this season. He’s averaged 8.0 points and 3.3 assists during an average of  22.8 minutes per game, with the Knicks outscoring opponents by 34 when he’s been on the floor.

Jerian Grant is already a fantastic point guard option, and giving him starter’s minutes now will only accelerate his path to success.

Nov 2, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Jerian Grant (13) reaches for the basket as San Antonio Spurs center

Boris Diaw

(33) falls off defense during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden. San Antonio Spurs won 94-84. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Langston Galloway represents one of the biggest success stories in the NBA, and his performances so far this season are helping prove that his dream rookie campaign was anything but a fluke.

He put up 11.8 points and 3.3 assists per game and received All-Rookie Second Team in 2014-15. Galloway has registered 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game this season, despite receiving nearly 5.0 minutes less per game.

Galloway’s offensive prowess has been his main weapon, but the intangibles he provides, such as above average rebounding for a point guard and a noticeably cool head under pressure, make him an interesting candidate to start if Derek Fisher deems Grant not quite ready.

Regardless, it seems Jose Calderon’s days as the Knicks’ point guard are numbered.

If his poor play and the development of Grant and Galloway continue, Derek Fisher will have no choice but to shift Calderon out of his starting role. With limited minutes, he might be able to reinvent himself as an off-the-bench 3-point shooter, potentially reviving his stagnating career.

At the moment, it seems the Knicks are only hurting themselves by allowing Calderon ample time on the court.