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Team Canada and NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

There Is A Little Tony Parker In The Raptors Cory Joseph

A lot of people believed the real reason the Toronto Raptors signed Spurs free agent Cory Joseph this past summer for four years and $30 million was the kid is Canadian and good enough to be a backup point guard. A marketing move as much as an acquisition of talent. However, after spending four years in San Antonio, there might just be more than a little Tony Parker in Joseph’s game.

“I learned a lot from (Tony Parker),” Joseph told Pro Bball Report. “I was there for four years. I learned a lot. I studied his game obviously from watching him play on a day-to-day basis. I was able to take a few moves, take a few things from him. Obviously not everything because I am a different guy, but I don’t feel that he’s a bad person to take a couple of moves from.”

Joseph has been better than advertised in Toronto. Currently owning the fifth best field goal percentage (57.7) in the NBA and best among point guards, Joseph has been steadily carving out a bigger role for himself in head coach Dwane Casey’s rotation. Fearless going to the basket with a solid mid-range game to keep opposing defenders honest combined with a defensive presence of his own, Joseph has looked like the leader and go-to-guy that Team Canada supporters have been watching in FIBA competitions over the past several summers.

Now out of the shadow of the iconic Spurs, you can see moves Joseph has been borrowing from Parker’s game over the past four years and the parallels between Parker and his protege, even though Joseph’s NBA career didn’t get off to the same fast start. Joseph didn’t really get his chance in the NBA until his third season.

Parker, born in Belgium,  was drafted by the Spurs 28th overall in 2001 as a 19-year old and developed quickly in the Spurs system. A starter from the beginning, he won his first of four NBA titles in his second season. As a young player, Parker did most of his damage within 3 feet of the rim, but his mid-range shooting improved and in his fifth NBA season he averaged 54.8 percent shooting from the field and was named to his first All-Star team.

Joseph was drafted by the Spurs 29th overall a decade later in 2011 as a 19-year-old, but the very veteran Spurs organization sent him to develop in the NBA D-League for most of his first two seasons. Joseph has even remarked that the vets wouldn’t even talk to him as a rookie. He had to prove himself first.  The tactic worked, Joseph started 19 games with the Spurs in his third season and played in 17 playoff games during the team’s Championship run in 2014. The next year Joseph was shooting over 50 percent from the field.

Both players like to get into the paint and take over 50 percent of their shots within 10 feet of the rim, but what makes them really effective scorers is the ability to hit on well over 40 percent from the field anywhere out to the three-point line. The mid-range game is alive and well with these two players.

Historically the three-point line has been where their effectiveness has stopped, however, there are signs that maybe they have figured something out here as well. Last year both players took 10.7 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. Parker hitting over 40 percent for the first time in his career. Joseph sinking a respectable 36.4 percent of them.

This year Parker has been a reluctant three-point shooter, although he is 2-2 through 9 games. Joseph, on the other hand, has hit on 4-10 through 11 games. While neither player has really changed their game all that much, the parallels continue.

Once again Joseph is playing behind an All-Star point guard in Kyle Lowry this season and he’ll be looking to add a few more things to his game from another respected veteran. He won’t ever be Parker or Lowry, he knows he has to be himself, but that doesn’t mean a little of the All-Stars playing ahead of him hasn’t trickled down. Watch closely and it’s hard not to see more than a little of Parker’s influence in his game.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.