Go with Calderon's potential
By Tom Carpenter
Jason Kidd's incredible speed for a big point guard, combined with almost telepathic court vision, has allowed him to remain a top-end fantasy stud for nearly his entire career. He'll go down as one of the elite 1s ever to play the game. He'll be enshrined in the Hall of Fame just like another legendary point guard, John Stockton, who had those very honors bestowed upon him a few weeks ago.
Let me tell you an interesting story about Stockton. When he entered the 1998-99 season, he was 36 years old and ready for his 15th NBA campaign. He'd been an absolute fantasy stud for nearly his entire career, but it was clear with his advancing age that his game was waning a little every year. Meanwhile, there was this upstart 25-year-old player who went by the name of Jason Kidd. He was entering his fifth NBA campaign and had been reliably contributing big assist numbers (nine-plus per game), some 3s and 11-12 points per game.
At the end of the season, the aging Stockton's fantasy production was at its lowest in a dozen years and the upstart Kidd broke out, averaging 16.9 points per game and leading the NBA with 10.8 dimes per game.
It's 11 years later, but just like Stockton in '98, Kidd is 36 years old and entering his 15th NBA campaign. And it's clear with his advancing age that his game is waning a little every year. Meanwhile, there's this upstart 28-year-old player who goes by the name of Jose Calderon. He's entering his fifth NBA campaign and has been reliably contributing big assist numbers (eight-plus per game), some 3s and 11-12 points per game.
Now, let's not take this analogy too far. Jose Calderon is not Jason Kidd. Calderon is a fine young point guard with plenty of fantasy potential. But unless he pulls an unexpected leap in performance like we saw early in Steve Nash's career, Calderon is not going to the Hall of Fame.
Will Calderon make a giant leap like that? We don't know. We certainly didn't expect it from Nash at the time. And it's exactly that unknown upside that will make me take Calderon before Kidd this season.
Calderon is entering his physical prime and has improved each of his first four seasons. In a worst case for Calderon, he'll match last season's production, which means he's the rare point guard who shoots close to 50 percent from the field, racks up quality dimes and drops some treys. Best case? He pushes for the league lead in assists and becomes a dual threat capable of mid-teens scoring and 1.5 treys.
Kidd has nowhere to go but down. At best, he has a slight improvement on last season's stats, which is nice for dimes, treys and swipes, but still leaves you with a pathetic field goal mark around 40 percent. Worst case, his body declines rapidly during the season and he fails to even match Calderon's production from last season.
When comparing two similar players, I'll take the guy who has little downside and plenty of upside. Give me Calderon.
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Take tried-and-true Kidd
By Adam Madison
I understand a lot of owners balk at Jason Kidd's low scoring; it's disconcerting to invest a high pick in someone who doesn't even average double digits in points. But if the decision is between Kidd and Jose Calderon, another point guard who doesn't score much, where is the debate? Few can compete with Kidd as a multi-categorical threat; he finished 10th on the ESPN Player Rater last season for a reason. Calderon, in case you're wondering, was 31st.
The burden of proof, then, lies on Calderon's supporters. How will Calderon make up the difference in that gap? Well, one could believe the 36-year-old Kidd is due for regression. While it's definitely true that any player in his mid-30s carries a perpetual red flag, one would think Kidd has a buffer against age-related decline. For one, as John Hollinger has noted before, big point guards who excel at passing and shooting tend to age well. While there is no arguing with the former two qualities, Kidd has never been much of a sharpshooter -- until recently. His field goal percentage remains low, but since joining the Mavericks, Kidd has shot 41.6 percent from beyond the arc on 399 attempts. As a guard who lost much of his quickness some time ago, that added dimension has done a lot to ensure Kidd's longevity.
Another data point against Kidd's regression is the structure of his team. Not only was Kidd re-signed to a three-year, $25 million contract by the Mavericks this offseason, the team also added Shawn Marion in an attempt to improve the team speed. The Mavs plan to run more, and Kidd is seen as the catalyst who will make things go. The Mavericks organization is obviously quite comfortable with staking its success on the effectiveness of Kidd, and while that alone isn't proof, the fact that Kidd is being placed in a position well-suited to his talents makes it more likely he will indeed succeed.
The situation isn't quite as rosy for Calderon, who has to deal with assimilating the Raptors' major free-agent splash, Hedo Turkoglu, into the framework. The arrival of Turkoglu means another player who can initiate the offense and take the ball out of Calderon's hands. Don't forget about Jarrett Jack, either, another offseason import. A combo guard who will often play alongside Calderon, Jack is another player who needs the ball in his hands to be effective, potentially crimping Calderon's style.
There is always a tendency to trumpet the up-and-coming over the tried-and-true, but I fail to see a changing of the guard in this case. Kidd is simply too safe a selection. His Hall of Fame career speaks for itself, and he's proven to be quite adaptable in the latter portion of his career. If anything, the Mavericks' offense should be more explosive this season, offering more open 3-pointers for Kidd and more opportunities to rack up assists in the open court. Until we see evidence of it, don't assume an age-related decline just yet.
Adam Madison is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.