Cory Joseph is creeping into the backup point guard conversation

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AT&T CENTER — Nando De Colo gets the headlines for his late-game heroics in the Spurs’ 101-99 win over the Hawks on Wednesday night, but Cory Joseph looks like the young guard blossoming for the Spurs. With Tony Parker and Patty Mills both sitting out the Spurs’ second preseason game, Joseph was tabbed as San Antonio’s starting point guard. CoJo’s shooting numbers (four points on 2-8 from the field) didn’t look good, but his knowledge of when to attack the defense and control of the Spurs offense was impressive.

Joseph seemed to know the right time to press the Hawks transition D. He seemed to master the difficult task of not dribbling too much and he wasn’t afraid to push the ball ahead with a pass, as most point guards like to dribble their way up. Joseph got the ball to teammates in spots to score and when opportunities weren’t there and the Spurs risked getting out of control, Joseph was there to get the ball back and get set up the San Antonio offense. He finished with five rebounds and four assists and just two turnovers in 28+ minutes.

Defensively, Joseph has also shown some improvement since last season. While not the biggest point guard around, he’s got a long wingspan capable of harassing opponents. Drafting Joseph reminds me a bit of the Spurs grabbing George Hill in 2008, except Joseph is arguably more capable of running the team’s offense than Hill was. The Spurs plucked Hill, essentially a complete unknown, late in the first round because he had the frame to be a defensive pest. They were then able to develop other aspects of his game offensively.

It seems they were looking for the same qualities in Joseph. CoJo doesn’t have the combo guard flexibility of Hill, even though Joseph has the rep as a score-first guard, but CoJo could fill a role as a backup point guard / spot starter for a long time, and come at a cheaper price after his rookie contract is up than Hill did. Joseph’s shot is still a work in progress, but it’s coming along and he’s developing a similar ability to finish with contact that Hill and Tony Parker have.

The longer Patty Mills sits with an ankle injury and Joseph plays well, the Spurs could be in for a point guard dilemma. Would the Spurs keep Joseph in San Antonio as Tony Parker’s backup and move Mills? Or is Joseph destined for Austin once again? Time will tell, but some pressure could be mounting for Mills to get back on the floor and Gary Neal to impress as Parker’s backup.

Other notes from the Spurs’ win over the Hawks:

  • Nando De Colo came in as the backup point guard in the game and had the unfortunate task of defending Jeff Teague, one of the quicker guards in the league, for a stretch. Saying De Colo did well would be a lie, but he didn’t get lit up. De Colo’s quickness is obviously going to be a problem when he plays point and Teague was able to create space for himself wherever he wanted. But to his credit, De Colo didn’t make any dumb gambles.
  • DeJuan Blair knocked down a 16-18 foot jumpshot in the first quarter. I wrote pregame that Blair’s form looked good, I just had concerns about his slow release and inconsistent hand placement. Johan Petro, defending on the play, made no effort to defend the shot, but it’s still nice to see. Hitting that shot can only breed confidence for Blair, and the more confidence he gets in his shot, the better off the Spurs are.
  • After a big dunk in the first quarter, Eddy Curry committed a cardinal sin. Curry slammed the ball home, grabbed it out of the net, screamed one of those screams you let loose after a dunk and then tossed the ball off the basket support. This all happened right in front of Popovich and the Spurs bench. It was one of those me-first moments that doesn’t fit into Pop’s “get over yourself” credo.
  • Tiago Splitter seemed completely disinterested in playing basketball in this game. Splitter had trouble getting calls on contact and maybe he’s still working back into shape after missing a few practices with back spasms, but he really didn’t look good. On one play, Splitter helped on the pick-and-roll but made no effort to recover and his man ended up with a wide open dunk. He fumbled a lot of passes on offense and was generally as ineffective as his two points suggest. He did have six rebounds in 13 minutes, though. So there’s that.
  • Titletown99030507d

    I thought rebounds were more important than scoring the ball for Tiago like everybody keeps bitching about. 3rd highest rebounder in the game after literally no practice or playing time. Curry gets 25+ minutes with butt loads of practice this training camp and gets 8 rebounds. Once Tiago gets his practice the rest of this preseason he’ll be more efficient and his numbers will be better he’s done it before no reason to believe why he can’t. Now if he gets hurt during the season like Manu does every year well then yeah serves the reason he can’t be depended on. The regular season hasn’t started yet so we’ll address that when the time comes if it does. Let’s hope it doesn’t.

  • este

    I’m a Dejuan fan but at this point he is what he is and that’s a very limited player both physically and in skill. Powell is longer more skilled and would be an upgrade. I would also keep Curry because his size is intriguing and I know he’s potentially a knucklehead but it’s low risk. If he acts a fool you part ways if he’s able to give them the size and athleticism they’ve lacked then it’s a good gamble.

  • imwithstupid

    All CoJo has done is steadily improve at every step of his development. Now he is breaking into the rotation and he still isn’t getting all the love he should and the haters can’t admit they were wrong. This kid is growing up right in front of our eyes, enjoy it.

  • ThatBigGuy

    With the Powell, Brown, and Curry all putting in good performances, how secure is Blair’s spot on the team? The big question is who will get the 15th roster spot. All three auditioning big men don’t have the mastery over one specific stat like Blair has with rebounding, but all three have broader skill sets. It will be very interesting to see where Blair ends this season.

    It’s really encouraging to see so many quality guys fighting for the last 5 spots on the bench. I can see the FO hoarding as many assets as possible and then looking to trade mid season.

  • ThatBigGuy

    To echo my post about the positive bigs conundrum, the PG situation looks to be about the same. In light of DeColo’s game, there’s 6 guys on the roster that can legitimately play PG. I can see Pop giving CoJo some PT early, and maybe package him with Blair for a future pick. This many guards is great because a trade won’t hurt the passing dynamic the team already has.

    I don’t expect a trade for an impact player this year, because the team is currently a highly precise machine, and trade has a chance to upset that balance. I do see trades for draft picks, because this team is thinking about post Tim/Pop, and stockpiling draft picks is a very smart and cheap plan.

  • ThatBigGuy

    I agree with you. I’d ship Blair out (with CoJo or Neal) for a 1st round draft pick. That would make room for us to add 2 out of the competing bigs. I’d stick with Curry, because he’s big and I think he’ll respond very positively to the Tim/Pop locker room environment. I’d also keep Brown instead of Powell because Brown seems more mobile. I think he could guard guys like Love and Josh Smith out to the perimeter better than Brown, but you could convince me that Powell is more valuable because of his greater size in the paint.

    Either way, with the limited smaple size, it looks like Blair should be the odd man out.

  • assistman

    Sounds like many of us are having similar thoughts…
    1) Are any of these possible bigmen a better fit that Blair?
    2) De Colo looks like a better PG than Neal to me, so whose gonna back up TP this season?

    Neal is such a good scorer, I see him as a 4th guard playing mostly alongside Manu and Jax (as long as he’s in SA) to cover his shortcomings as a ball-handler and defender. I want all our good guards get playing time to build their value (and trade value if RC can put a package together for a draft pick or prospect).

    Sending CJ and De Colo to Ausitn to start the year would open up roster spots for 10-day contracts to give Powell, Curry, and Brown extended looks. I’ve had my fill of some of established front court rotation guys, and am liking what Brown and Powell bring. I also see Curry as a similar to Blair albeit with the size to block a shot here and there, and as good insurance against a Tiago Splitter injury.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    10-day contracts can’t be signed until January 7

  • STIJL

    For me Neal should play his natural position of 2 guard. And depending on opponent or plan, either him or Green alternated as need deems best. I’m not sold on Green as starter material. He’s got deficiencies that won’t serve the Spurs well if those deficiencies should be relied upon. AS does Neal. But Neal showed something in the game against Hawks. He plays adequate defense guarding other twos and excels offensively in that role as 2 guard. So if DeColo…who shown in one game to be better adept at playing point guard…should be in the point guard mix over Neal.

    PG candidates at this time…Parker, Mills, DeColo. Joseph may never quite get up to quality nba standards and it just might be a wash considering that if DeColo can up to being a good back up to Parker from a late round pick while Joseph may not become an nba product as a first round pick.

  • assistman

    Even so, I’d still like to see CJ get another year of development in Austin and think that Powell, Brown, and/or Curry can add something we need more than another regular season point guard. Mills injury complicates things, but I’d send Nando down too. We don’t need to start the season with 4 backup point guards.

  • Horatio

    Interesting issues Pop and the FO have to deal with. We have alot of ‘decent’ players to choose from but only so many minutes to distribute…..the one thing is does do is mean competition…guys have to bring their ‘A’ game to camp or pack for Austin or elsewhere.

    I’m a big Patty Mills guy but the backup PG logjam creates some dilemmas…..Nando by all accounts looks amazing….what to do with CoJo….Neal’s PT….If you figure Jack is more a 3 than a 2, who’s the primary 2 behind Green/Manu (who will likely miss time somewhere to an injury) Neal with a little PT for Nando? A good problem to have….several capable players to fill slots.

    Ahhh…..Tiago…..a legit big body with some athleticism but again, reports out of camp seem to say he’s not all in. I love the ‘good’ Dejuan Blair….the ‘bad’ Dejuan Blair, not so much. When he’s exposed, he’s not worth much…he’s never been able to make that transition to the super overachiever/undersized PF like Barkley…or even Elton Brand…..or….oof, Chuck Hayes….

    I could see a deal with Blair and one of the spare G for a pick somewhere but the best to hope for would be a high 2nd rounder.

    Curry has all the ability in the world and could be a beast but…..so much baggage…..how much impact on his persona could Pop/Tim/Jack (yeah, Jack) have on him.

    One thing I am adamant about is no matter how attractive his expiring contract might be, DON’T. TRADE. JACK…..he’s got something the Spurs need…..

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yeah Patty is one of my favorites as well and now DeColo. If Decolo steps up his game even more especially on the defensive side you just might see CJ being the odd man out. I’d stick with Patty, Neal, and DeColo if one of those PGs had to be used in a trade down the stretch.

    Reports coming out of camp? WT? As far as Tiago not being all in is just opinion coming from a blog writer trying to stir up readership. And I really don’t listen to any of those stiffs holding a microphone after every practice or game. They have nothing interesting to ask. They ask the stupidist questions besides I really doubt they interviewed Splitter on the topic. Buford or Pop haven’t indicated that Splitter is not all in. And I really doubt Splitter wants to derail his career. Just because someone gets hurt at camp doesn’t mean they’re doing it on purpose. Happened before and he was fine during the season. I don’t pay attention to those reports they mean nothing to me. I have to hear it from either Pop, Buford, or Splitter himself.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Yep, that’s what I’m here for, just trying to create some controversy in the name of pageviews. Hey, you guys want to her about what celebrity Tony Parker was last seen with?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Only if he got another shard of glass in his eye but other than that I could care less about his love life.