When Cory Joseph inked a 4-year, $30 million deal with the Toronto Raptors in 2015, hoop heads north of the border rejoiced due to the return of one of their native sons. After one season, the signing is already looking like yet another fantastic move by razor-sharp general manager Masai Ujiri.
After spending four years in a minimized role with the San Antonio Spurs, Joseph set career-highs for points (8.5) and assists (3.1) per game in 2015-16. The 25-year-old averaged 25.6 minutes per game in his impressive debut campaign with Toronto.
Joseph’s Spurs pedigree is obvious. He’s arguably the top backup point guard in the NBA, and his top-notch defense, smart shooting and ability to finish around the rim has breathed new life into Toronto’s second unit. In a year of milestones for the franchise, Joseph’s emergence as a solid contributor was excellent to see.
Joseph’s contract is a downright steal. In a summer where general managers threw around money like they were extras in a Young Jeezy video, the Canadian’s annual $7.5 million cap hit looks like pocket change for the value he provides.
The Texas product is beloved by his teammates and fans alike, and his progression should continue in the 2016-17 campaign. Whether it’s anchoring the bench or playing alongside Kyle Lowry in small-ball lineups, Joseph has earned the trust of his peers. He’s playing like he’s found his home in the NBA, and that’s great news for the Toronto faithful.
Looking towards the future, Joseph’s role with the Dinos could expand. Lowry has (understandably) stated that he will opt out of the final year of his contract and pursue a five-year max deal. Ujiri knows Lowry is the engine that makes Toronto go, but it’s unclear if the team will make the financial commitment at this point.
If Lowry does end up testing the lucrative waters of free agency, having Joseph in the fold will keep Raptors fans’ collective fingers off the panic button. He’s no Lowry, but then again, not many guards in the NBA are. Ideally, Lowry and Joseph will continue to operate as a dynamic one-two punch at the one spot. If that changes, the kid from Pickering could be shouldering a much bigger load going forward.
For now, though, Joseph and the Raps will continue their mutually beneficial relationship. For a franchise that’s had its fair share of downs, that’s a major win for basketball in Canada.