There remains a certain amount of gum flapping that suggests the only reason the Toronto Raptors acquired Cory Joseph was because he is Canadian, however, the longer he has been on the roster, the more it looks like the Raptors have found their sixth man.
While there was some consensus that Joseph could play defense before he arrived in Toronto, there were concerns his offensive skills were limited and the limited signs of their existence were the result of the Spurs famous team-first approach. It was assumed he would would struggle to score in the isolation heavy system being featured in Toronto. 18 games in and any concerns about Joseph not being able to contribute at both ends of the court should be assuaged.
In what can only be described as a breakout year, Joseph has quickly become a Coach Casey favorite. Coming off the bench for 25.3 minutes per game, Joseph is averaging career highs in points (9.3), rebounds (2.8), assists (3.1), field goal percentage (50.4), three-point shooting (36.8) … actually across the board. This version of Joseph closely resembles the go-to-player that has led Canada in international play over the past 3 years. It was Joseph and not budding superstar Andrew Wiggins that Canada went to in the dying seconds for the bronze medal winning shot against Mexico this past summer at the FIBA Americas.
Any doubts about Joseph being able to score should be gone and it’s a good thing for Toronto. With both Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson mired in early season shooting slumps, Joseph has become head coach Dwane Casey’s best offensive weapon off the bench by a significant margin. Not only is the young point guard finishing around the rim at an unbelievable 85.2 percent, he’s hitting 54.5 percent of his long twos and Joseph is Casey’s best three-point shooter not in the starting line-up.
While Joseph’s success around the rim is high, he was known for his ability to drive and drive and kick – thanks Spurs. However, his ability to make three-point shots was something a lot of people had in the “prove-it” category. He has been getting better at it each year, but the volume was too low to rely on and no one can remember anything he did in an NBA game like the pressure packed three-point game-winner Joseph recently hit in Washington with time expiring.
“I’ve just been practicing everyday,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report. “After shoot-around, practice, just practicing a lot, a lot of repetition so I am confident in my shot.”
Not unlike a lot of NBA teams these days, the success of the Raptors offense often hinges on forcing opposing defenses to respect their three-point shooting ability. They need to space the floor in order to make room for their drivers like DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Joseph himself.
“It’s very important, especially (because) we got great drivers,” Joseph said. “We have to spread the floor for DeMar, so I have to consistently knock down that shot so guys can’t help off so much.
“If you do just one thing, then people key in on it, so you just have to get better and expand your game. Every team I’ve been with, I’ve been working on (my jumper), getting better at it, expanding my range every year that I’ve played.”
Joseph is still developing and his progress remains on a rapid upward pace. The best from this young point guard is yet to come.