CoJo's early entry to the NBA had critics out in full force, but all the young point guard needs is a little time.
Let's not forget where Cory Joseph came from. This is a kid whose career was supposed to be something special heading into the college ranks, yet his accomplishments have been thus far unheralded both as a Texas Longhorn and San Antonio Spur. And the critics were out in full force when his name was called by David Stern with the 29th pick in the 2011 draft.
He's too small. He did nothing in school. He came out too early.
Be careful how loud you shout these things, because Joseph may end up making you look foolish.
The young Canadian was a pretty decorated individual even before moving down to Texas' capital city. He spent his prep career at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., where he played alongside future Longhorn teammate Tristan Thompson and Avery Bradley - who graduated one year earlier and left for the NBA prior to Joseph's arrival - for one of the top teams in the country. He garnered a ton of attention as the No. 7 prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com, and helped lead his team to a 74-66 win over No. 1-ranked Oak Hill Academy in the ESPN RISE NHSI Championship in 2009.
But his decision to enter the Association after only one year at Texas came under heavy criticism. Most believed he was far from ready to play in the greatest league in the world, and to this point he hasn't done anything to feed critics their words as his performance with the Spurs in limited action did little to turn heads. Though he did show off his underrated speed and quickness in the open floor, he shot a mere 31 percent from the floor while only averaging two points and an assist in nearly 10 minutes per game. But Joseph - who was 19 years old on draft night in 2011 and had no offseason coaching due to the lockout - made the most of his time in the NBA's Developmental League.
Like Tony Parker, Joseph arrived with the reputation of a scoring point guard, but what has perhaps been the most impressive aspect of his game is his ability to rebound. Joseph - who is actually bigger than Parker - recorded a crazy triple double against the Maine Red Claws on March 23 when he notched 15 points, 12 assists and a staggering 17 boards in a 112-82 win for the eventual D-League champion Austin Toros. Standing 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Joseph isn't the biggest of guards but his ability to gain solid position for rebounds has added a nice element to a well-rounded game. And it was evident during this past week's Las Vegas Summer League.
Joseph was added to the Summer League All-Star Team yesterday, and with Kawhi Leonard only playing in the team's first two games last week his presence was crucial. The numbers didn't blow anybody away, but there was an clear rising level of maturity. The usually happy-go-lucky CoJo was not in the best of moods following Friday's loss to the Heat when he committed a nasty 10 turnovers. He criticized his own lack of leadership and inability to control the ball and the offensive flow. But the next day he rebounded with an 18-point, seven-board, five-assist game in a close loss to a talented Mavericks squad. Once again his impressive play on the glass is what stuck out the most for a guy who isn't the tallest or bulkiest player on the court, until you considered his shooting percentage throughout the week.
In five games as the team's starting point guard, Joseph averaged 17 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 33 minutes per contest. He shot nearly 48 percent from the field including 40 percent from the arc and 83 percent from the free-throw line.
I know, it's only Summer League and the level of competition is more on par with the D-League than it is the NBA. But when you watch him play you can see the game is there. Did he come out too early? Probably. But if he eventually turns his career into a successful one at the next level then what's the difference? The Spurs have shown they're rarely concerned with rookies contributing immediately - with the exception of Leonard last year and that Duncan guy a decade-and-a-half ago - and with Parker still firmly in the prime of his career there's no rush in bringing Joseph to San Antonio, especially with Patty Mills returning in a backup role.
In Las Vegas he showed off a good jump shot from the arc and mid-range, a solid ability to defend and the aforementioned plus rebounding skills. His willingness to push the ball, penetrate and either kick out to the perimeter or finish at the rim resembled at times the play of the Spurs' current All-Star point guard. Also like Parker during his early years, Joseph certainly has room to improve his passing and ball control and will need to in order to be effective in the NBA. But his jumper has far more promise now than Parker's did at a similar age. Joseph's performance from the field as a Spur last year was misleading. This kid can shoot from anywhere on the court and further instruction from Chip Engelland will only prove beneficial, as Joseph told us in Vegas.
The point here is the talent is there. It may take a few years to manifest itself at the highest level, but be careful to write him off based on a small NBA sample size. Not only was he only 20 years old during his rookie season, he was also bouncing back and forth between San Antonio and Austin, rarely feeling completely comfortable through the tumult. And the Spurs are fortunate they can exhibit a level of patience bringing Joseph along as they please. But with his pedigree and willingness to learn and adjust, his time seems to be coming more quickly than many might realize.
The kid can play, and regardless of whether or not his career blooms in San Antonio - and whether it blooms at all - remains to be seen. But if you're asking me, I saw something in Las Vegas last week. At the very least he showed he can play with his peers. The thing is, at some point those peers will represent the next wave of the league's best players, and he has a chance to be right there with them.
Cast aspersions on Joseph at your own risk, because sooner or later he'll quietly let you know you're wrong. And he'll have a smile on his face the whole time.
You can follow along on Twitter: @mtynan_PtR ... It's gonna be fun.