Cory Joseph: Raptors’ best off-season signing


The Raptors signed 2 free agents on July 9. One of them flew under the radar, but Cory Joseph isn’t invisible anymore.

The Toronto Raptors made a significant number of free agent signings this past off-season. The applause was loudest when small forward DeMarre Carroll devolved from a Hawk to a Raptor, but Luis Scola, Bismack Biyombo, and Anthony Bennett all came on board. Another free agent, LaMarcus Aldridge, left Portland to join San Antonio, which turned out to have positive implications for our team. The Spurs were cash-strapped after ponying up for Aldridge and couldn’t retain Cory Joseph. GM Masai Ujiri was quick to sign the Canadian point guard to a four-year, 30 million dollar deal.

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With the NBA season at the quarter-pole, Joseph has proven himself to be a huge asset, and a more valuable Raptor than the oft-injured Carroll. In a league in which consistency of performance is prized, Cory Joseph has been its most prominent example. We’ve waited a long time for a player like this, who doesn’t ever seem to have an off-night.

Let’s take a quick glance at CoJo’s productivity. What’s the one thing you want to see from a young NBA player as he matures? Increased productivity, right? Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you Cory Joseph, whose stats have improved every year he’s been a professional. Minutes Per Game [PG]? From 9.2 MPG in a mop-up role with perpetual powerhouse San Antonio, to just over half the game in Toronto. Points PG? Check that box – 2.0 to 9.5. Shooting Percentage? Gotcha – 31.4 to 52. Assists PG? 1.2 to 3.1.

Nov 28, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph (6) celebrates with guard Kyle Lowry (7) after hitting the game winning shot as time expired against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center. Toronto Raptors defeated Washington Wizards 84-82. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

I mentioned Minutes above, but with Cory, it’s not just about how many (640 minutes played, or 56% of available time, the third-highest mark on the team)…it’s when he plays those minutes that are so telling. He averages 10.4 minutes in the fourth quarter, which is the ultimate sign of his coach’s trust.

Coach Dwane Casey has no qualms about playing CoJo with Kyle Lowry, which might be viewed by some as heresy. (“Two point guards at the same time – horrors!”) Yet in close games, you’ll see those two stifling the opponents, and hitting clutch shots, on a regular basis.

There aren’t many point guards on the planet better than Lowry. If PER is the standard, he’s third behind Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. But the loss of Lowry for a few weeks due to injury wouldn’t trouble me as much as if DeMar DeRozan were to go down. Cory could start at the point, and the Raptors would still be competitive. Tucked in 28th place in PER with a 15.85 mark is CoJo, one of very few backups with a positive ranking (a mythical average player has a PER of 15).  [20-second timeout: Phoenix has two point guards listed, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, both of whom average almost 36 MPG. Does that make any sense to you? Why not just name Bledsoe the shooting guard? Perhaps I’m being silly to quibble about such things, but it bothers me.]

Next: Kyle Lowry - among the best

CoJo has managed to avoid injury so far in his career, which I’ve always considered a skill, rather than merely good fortune.

The Raptors have two quality point guards, and that’s a major reason why the loss of two members of our starting five hasn’t proven disastrous.