Cory Joseph has lifted the proverbial monkey off his back — for the time being. Pegged as an unlikely contributor to any NBA rotation well, ever, he’s been playing under scrutiny before he even stepped on the floor last season. That kind of pressure is daunting for any player of any stature, as LeBron James can surely attest to, and isn’t something that is necessarily desired when your basketball career is in the primordial stages.
Joseph didn’t get a legitimate opportunity to exorcise his demons — which, admittedly, is overstating the pressure heaped on a late first-round pick who aren’t generally good players anyway — as he logged 266 minutes the entire season.
His rookie season wasn’t a complete failure though. As the Spurs’ rotation steadily gained enough lucidity, and the 20 year olds services were no longer necessary, CoJo developed a bit of a rapport with the Austin Toros. He averaged 13.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and a true shooting percentage of 57.1%, buoyed by an impeccable 92.3% mark from the foul line. To wit: he played relatively well against a guys who aren’t talented enough to stick in the NBA. No big deal.
Fast forward to this offseason: San Antonio released their Summer League roster consisting a mismatch of 18 players from every conceivable area of the world. The obvious headliner would be Kawhi Leonard, who dominated to the point where he wasn’t needed for the last three games. That wasn’t surprising; again, it was expected. When Joseph took the reigns, however, his development deviated from everything we expected from him. He played well enough to earn the title of a Summer League All-Star with averages of 17 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
No one could’ve possibly foreseen Joseph developing a potent offensive repertoire. He still struggles to find the open man on the pick-and-roll and is rather average overall as a passer. But from a “raw” kid coming off one year at Texas it’s nice to see that he can do something, anything to reaffirm our faith.
CoJo also has shown his defensive chops; he’s capable of becoming a plus defender. Considering the tough competition at point, that attribute isn’t as valuable as, say, a Dwight Howard type defender or even someone like Leonard. It’s tough to stop point guards, naturally. They are really fast. But in a way it’s comforting that he won’t be a defensive liability like Gary Neal. If you can enter the NBA without any negligible holes, you set yourself up for a successful career especially in a system, like San Antonio’s, that doesn’t require a diverse skill set — just a defined one. Coupled with a competent offensive game, Joseph could potentially supersede our expectations.
The negative connotations previously associated with Joseph, for now at least, aren’t as prevalent. They’ve receded into the backdrop, ready in a moment’s notice in the event that he deteriorates. He has bought himself some time to flourish in San Antonio’s system.
Just a word of advice: Don’t take too long. The Spurs may find your skill set expendable if they don’t receive sufficient return for their investment.