It's tough to put your finger on Nick Calathes. He's a second year NBA man, but a seasoned veteran overseas. He's a dual Greek-American citizen, born in Florida, but made (basketball-wise, at least) in Europe. He's not a three point threat, but you shouldn't dare him to shoot. He's not Tony Allen on defense, but he's damn close. His ceiling isn't high but that makes it easier to reach, and his lows are swampy and lacking all confidence.
Last summer, the murmurs were that Nick wanted out of his NBA contract for a more profitable deal in Europe. The Grizzlies were not obliged to let him go, though, because capable $1m/year back-up point guards should always be in stock. Nick served the last 13 games of his banned substance suspension to start the year, and when he came back, he found his second-string spot taken by a confident, cheerful Slovenian.
So Calathes' roll shrunk - more schematically than numerically, as you'll see in a bit. Where last year he was asked to helm the second unit with fellow Gator Mike Miller, this year he became more of a specialist - a defensive sub in short shot clocks, a big defender of small point guards, and a ball-handler in small 3-PG lineups.
Nick Calathes' 2013-14 and 2014-15 season stats, courtesy of Basketball Reference.
In his new role, Nick still made himself useful. His scoring dipped slightly, but in proportion with his reduced floor time. His steals went up and his turnovers went down as he was free to be more aggressive in ball hawking and less worried about fouls. How many inbounds did he steal or threaten to steal, and how many passing lanes did he disrupt? He became Tony Allen's spirit animal, to the point that one practice became too big for the two of them.
Calathes is usually good for at least one game takeover per year. This year it was a January home game vs. Toronto. Nick didn't lead any major statistical categories in the box score, but it was his fourth quarter spark - a fast-break dish to Marc Gasol, a block and fancy finish, and a simple but brilliant give-and-go with Big Spain - that lifted the Grizz to a regular season win they might have otherwise let go. I wrote about Calathes' value as a regular season win-getter in February, highlight the kind of six-point, seven-assist games that he's great for.
Nick Calathes' 2015 playoffs stats, courtesy of Basketball Reference.
Most worryingly, Nick's percentages dipped noticeably on the year. From 45% to 42% from the floor, and from 31% to 25% from three. He doesn't have the hot-off-the-bench reliability Jon Leuer, or the beaming confidence of Beno, so in spot minute situations, Calathes was unable to be a major offensive contributor. This is not a big deal when the Grizzlies are leading or battling in the mud, but in the face of second-half deficits, I'm sure Joerger would rather see a Russ Smith-style third option when he looks down the bench, and that could be ominous for Calathes' future as a Grizzly. It was Smith who led an energized third unit to a big comeback against Golden State in the penultimate game of the regular season. The Grizzlies, ominously, still lost that game, but those of us who stayed up late to watch it saw a #russdiculous future - maybe one without Nick Calathes.