Cory Joseph's stats aren't huge, but his impact for the Toronto Raptors this season definitely was. He came home to Toronto last summer, looking to break out of the cool, comfortable shade he enjoyed while winning a championship with the San Antonio Spurs. While he still came off the bench, Joseph developed into a major contributor for the Raptors, leading the second unit and playing more than his fair share of end-of-game minutes in close contests.
Despite his solid, polished skills and determined defence, Joseph's largest impact for the Raptors had little to do with scoring on stopping opposite scorers. He proved to be the glue-guy necessary for an already good team to make a leap into playoff contention. Joseph is reliable, calm and supportive of his team, without the ego of a star player. He is there to win, not only for his teammates and coaches, but for his city, and that makes a big difference.
It really can't be stressed enough how valuable a 24-year-old, five-year NBA veteran can be for a team trying to balance young talent and stars prone to lose their cool under the brightest lights. This year, the Raptors went further into the playoffs than the franchise ever had before, and Joseph was a big reason why.
In almost every way, this was Joseph's best statistical season. He played in 80 games for the Raptors, starting four, and averaged 8.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.8 steals in 25.6 minutes per game. For context, last season he played 18.3 minutes per game -- the most he had played at that point in his career. He shot 43.9% from the field, 27.3% from three, and 76.4% from the free throw line.
May 24, 2016 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
This game was certainly indicative of Joseph's value for his team. He scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting in 31 minutes to help the Raptors win game four against the Cavs. That clash, one of the most important the franchise has ever encountered, gave the Raptors a chance with three games left in the series. Joseph was clutch, hitting 2-of-3 of his three-pointers, and adding five rebounds and three assists during the contest.
May 15, 2016 vs. Miami Heat
This was certainly a game to forget for a man who cares so much about the city he plays for. During the Raptors' biggest game ever, Joseph shot 0-8 from the field, finishing with one point and three assists. Luckily, the Raptors triumphed over the Heat, and advanced to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. If they had lost, we would be having a very different conversation about Joseph's merit.
Strengths and Weaknesses
+ High basketball IQ
+ Unselfish, looking to create for his teammates, especially in the second unit
+ Strong finisher around the hoop for his size, displaying above-average athleticism
+ Tough, aggressive defender
- Can't shoot the three-ball well enough to start at his position
- Never really goes off offensively, so he doesn't warrant much attention from opposing defences
Role Next Season
There would be nothing wrong with Joseph continuing to play the same role next season, with some added production by improving his shooting stats. That's probably a fair expectation. He is already a solid sixth-man, so he has basically reached his ceiling in terms of minutes. Still, he could become even more significant for the team if he can convert more of his scoring opportunities. Either way, Joseph is definitely here for the long haul in Toronto.
A GIF to Sum It All Up