clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NBA free agency 2015: Cory Joseph may be too good for the Spurs to keep

New, comments

Joseph had a good year but with Mills already under contract, bringing him back might not make sense.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Erler and Jesus Gomez will be discussing the status of the Spurs' upcoming free agents. Cory Joseph is the topic of this conversation and things get heated. Enjoy!

Jesus Gomez
I know we are going to disagree a lot in this one, so let's start with something simple. Hypothetical: forget about contracts. Do you want Mills or Joseph as the Spurs' backup point guard for the next three years?

Michael Erler
Joseph.

Jesus Gomez
Not even a moment of hesitation.

Michael Erler
I get why fans would prefer Mills. But for reasonable analysts who actually study the numbers and leave the emotion out of it, it genuinely mystifies me that it's even a question. One guy is literally better at EVERYTHING than the other guy, except for shooting threes. That is literally the only skill Mills has over him, and even that's not by as big of a margin as people make it out to be.

Joseph did shoot a better percentage than him from downtown last year, but because Mills had a hot final week, that's all anybody remembers.

Plus, Joseph has shown a linear improvement in every facet of his game from year to year, and he's three years younger. There is no reason to think he won't keep improving. He's the second-best or best mid-range shooter on the team, depending on how you feel about Leonard. He made 45.3 percent of his mid-range jumpers last year.

But the killer stat for me, the one that sells me on him, is 39.2 percent of his field goal attempts came at the rim. That's better than any Spur except for Splitter, Baynes and Ayres.

He knows how to penetrate, how to get to the rim and finish. He draws fouls at twice the rate of Mills. He's a better playmaker and a better defender.

And Mills needs another point guard on the floor to even be able to play. Joseph does not.
So in a way, it's not even fair to compare them. One is a point guard. One is a shooting guard.

Jesus Gomez
Here's the thing: three-point shooting is really, really important. Much more important than mid-range shooting or rebounding from your point guard.

Michael Erler
I'm just asking... would you feel the way you do about Mills if the seven games he had against the Clippers came in the middle of January and his playoff stats were more in line with his regular season numbers?

Or are you suffering from recency bias and championship hero bias?

Jesus Gomez
Almost like the opposite of recency bias. I'm thinking about his play from last season. Because he was terrific then. Let's not forget he was out until December with injury this year.

Michael Erler
I just don't feel like Mills' long-term success is sustainable. He takes very bad shots early in the shot clock. Gary Neal shots. He's Neal with better PR, basically.

Jesus Gomez
Mills can dribble and pressure other guards. If anything, he's a better Neal.

Michael Erler
He can dribble, but he cannot penetrate. How many times did we see him just dribble aimlessly against some backup point guard, completely unable to cross him up, and have to settle for either a 28-footer at the buzzer or a pass to someone else for a 28-footer at the buzzer?

Jesus Gomez
You don't want him driving, you want him shooting.

Michael Erler
He needs daylight to shoot. He cannot create it for himself.

Jesus Gomez
His assisted field goal numbers prove you wrong.

Anyway, I have this theory. Mills is Bonner, Joseph is every other big man without a three-pointer the Spurs have used since Bonner joined the team. 

Everyone always complained that all Bonner could do was shoot threes while Insert Other Big was a better rebounder and marginally better defender. Yet up until last season, the team was always better with Bonner on the court, provided his minutes were reasonable. That's how important his shooting was.

Michael Erler
What Mills and Bonner have in common is Manu made both, more or less. I have my doubts either can succeed without him.

If Ginobili was playing three more years, I'd prefer Mills. With him retiring or at most playing one last season at like 18 minutes for 65 games, give me Joseph.

Jesus Gomez
Here's where I stand: Mills has one skill that is super important. Joseph is good at many things that are less important. If you want to argue Joseph is the better player, I might agree with you. But I think even without Manu I'd rather have a shooter like Mills on the roster than a guy like Joseph. You can get someone who does what Cory does as your third PG for cheap. A shooter like Mills is more rare.

Michael Erler
He's a 6'0 shooting guard, Jesus. What's even more rare than a guy who makes threes are shooting guards who can play the point, which is what you need for Mills to work.

Jesus Gomez
He's a good 6'0 shooting guard. And if Kawhi ever becomes the dominant force he's suppose to become, you want guys who can play off the ball. 

Michael Erler
And when Leonard is on the bench, I guess you hand the offense to Kyle Anderson?

Jesus Gomez
Sure, if he's good enough. Or any other shot creator you can get. 

Michael Erler
I think Joseph has more of a future, but I could be wrong. Maybe he'll always be a good third point guard.

I just think he brings more to the table than Mills does. Pop always goes on and on about the things he does that don't show up in the box score, and then in money time he benches him and plays Mills.

Jesus Gomez
BECAUSE YOU WANT MILLS IN THERE WHEN IT COUNTS, NOT HUSTLE GUY WITH NO SHOT!

Michael Erler
The guy who shot 45.3 from midrange and a better percentage from downtown than Mills has no shot. He shot above 50 percent last year. Not too many guards did that. And his eFG was only 50 points higher than Mills.

Jesus Gomez
Because he only shoots when he's wiiiiide open. 

Michael Erler
Which Mills should try sometime.

Jesus Gomez
No, he shouldn't. 

Michael Erler
Shooting when open is ideal.

Jesus Gomez
Sometimes that's not an option. That's why you play Mills over Joseph in big moments.

Michael Erler
And that "sometimes" isn't when there's 17 seconds to go on a shot clock

Jesus Gomez
I have a feeling we are not going to agree on this. 

Michael Erler
And I have a feeling 90 percent of PtR will agree with you. Such is my lot in life.

Jesus Gomez
We'll test that theory with a poll. Also, you should try being right sometime. It's pretty great. 

Michael Erler
I used 'em all up last year. None left.

My preference would be for the Spurs to re-sign Joseph, trade Mills and draft a two guard or a 6-4 or above combo guard.

Jesus Gomez
How high would you be willing to go when bringing back Joseph?

Michael Erler
What Mills makes now. Three years, 13 mil?  Two years and an option?

Jesus Gomez
Sounds reasonable. I'm for either letting Cory walk or bringing him back for cheap as a third point guard. You'd take him over Mills and now we are both angry at each other, like we expected to be after this particular conversation.

Let's let the Pounders decide who's right.