Cory Joseph has a hill to climb if he wants to be the starting point guard

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 31: Cory Joseph
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 31: Cory Joseph /

The Indiana Pacers picked up Cory Joseph from the Toronto Raptors this offseason and hope to make a long-term investment in him.

Kevin Pritchard hopes Cory Joseph is part of the Indiana Pacers future, but for now, he is one of the many pieces in the team’s rebuilding process. If Joseph wants that future to have him as the Pacers starting point guard, then he’s got some work to do.

Darren Collison will likely start when the season begins, but Joseph will get the chance to put the veteran on the bench as the season rolls on. Collison has the edge in production compared to Joseph, but the Canadian has often made the best of his chances so far in the NBA.

Joseph has primarily played the backup role in his career but when he filled in for an injured Kyle Lowry last season he showed the potential to start. However, his 12.2 points and five assists a game in that stretch still falls behind Collison’s season averages of 15.7 points and 5.4 assists.

Despite steadily progressing year to year in his raw numbers, one concern for Joseph’s future as a starter is he did more with less in his final two years with the San Antonio Spurs. On top of that is Joseph is a jack of all trades, master of none, especially in comparison to Collison, who is a scorer if nothing else.

One thing in Joseph’s favor on offense is he is more of a distributor than Collison in pick and roll and pick and pop situations. Collison is going to use those picks to create his own shot, something he does well but that isn’t as needed when you have Myles Turner setting them. The third year center is around average in that situation but still Indiana’s best option in the pick and roll. However, being good in one sort of play isn’t enough to push Joseph past the veteran.

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Closing the gap won’t be easy offensively, but one advantage Joseph holds over Collison is defense. His aggressiveness on defense alone is enough and the stats back that up. Joseph’s ferocity and willingness to guard bigger and faster players is something reminiscent of C.J. Miles and gives the Pacers versatility when Joseph is on the floor.

That’s where the gap between the two players narrows immensely. Collison’s offense makes up for his defense, but looking at last year’s numbers, Joseph was positive in the +/- department while Collison was negative. The former was on a playoff team while the latter was not,  but it gives you an idea of how leaky Collison’s defense is.

Even if Joseph can’t close the gap between the two, he still is a solid backup point guard. As we’ve seen with this Pacers team in years past, not having a reliable ball-handler running the second unit can erase leads in a hurry. At 25, it seems unlikely Joseph makes a great leap forward, but he can also tighten up certain aspects of his game to become more effective on offense.

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No matter which one gets the starting job as the season progresses, Joseph will start pushing Collison and that could lead to both elevating their games. Perhaps then, Joseph gets Pritchard’s attention and ensures his place in the Indiana Pacers’ future plans.