The 2019-20 Sacramento Kings are deep. They have young players at every position, and in most cases, a veteran waiting in the wings to help out.
Cory Joseph was one of the most crucial additions the Kings made in the offseason. General manager Vlade Divac invested heavily in the reserve guard, handing him a three-year, $37 million contract to back up De’Aaron Fox.
Winning teams need role players that understand what their job is when they step on the floor. Joseph has made a career out of solidifying the second unit of multiple teams and at 28 years old, he has plenty of basketball in front of him.
Last season, the Kings finished 20th in the league in defensive rating at 111.3 and 26th in points allowed per game at 115.3. To fix this issue, Divac went out and added veteran pieces to try and plug the holes.
Joseph is one of the better perimeter defending guards in the league. The Pacers posted a defensive rating of 110.1 with Joseph off the court and that number improved to 104.7 when he was playing.
In addition to his defensive numbers, Joseph finished last season with a 3.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s a solid distributor that isn’t flashy and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
With Sacramento, Joseph will be asked to be a secondary ball-handler in the second unit alongside Bogdan Bogdanovic. He’ll be allowed to focus on the defensive end, where he flourishes.
Like Fox, Joseph finishes well at the rim, hitting 67.8 percent in the circle. His second strongest spot on the floor is from 10-16 feet where he knocks down 43.8 percent.
Joseph also is considered a high character locker room guy that grew up in the Spurs system. He understood what he was signing up for when he took the three-year deal.
Joseph is a standout defender and a strong game manager, but his offensive game leaves something to be desired.
Of his 548 shot attempts during the regular season, 457 were jump shots. Despite being in the league eight seasons, his shot chart is all over the map.
He attempted 87 shots at the rim, 92 from 3-10 feet, 96 from 10-16 feet, 117 from 16 feet to the 3-point line and 180 3-pointers.
While he was effective at the rim, he didn’t set the world on fire from any other particular spot on the floor. He shot just 41.2 percent overall on the season and his 6.5 points per game were his lowest in the last five years.
After back-to-back seasons of shooting 35.6 and 35.3 percent from behind the arc, Joseph’s numbers dropped to 32.2 percent last season. In the Kings’ system, he should see an uptick in opportunities from 3-point range and the team needs him to take advantage.
In addition to the drop in 3-pointer percentage, Joseph saw a massive decrease in free-throw attempts and he hit less than 70 percent from the line. If he attacks the rim with more frequency, he should improve from his 43 total free-throw attempts last season.
Path to Improvement
Pace is a wonderful thing. Indiana played at the 24th slowest pace in the league last season, which was by design. Joseph will have all kinds of opportunities this season playing uptempo style. That should lead to better scoring and assist numbers, even with reduced minutes.
His main focus will be on stopping the elite scoring guards in the Western Conference, but he also could make strides on the offensive end by finding clear spots on the floor that play to his strength.
Joseph won’t be asked to carry a huge scoring load playing alongside Bogdanovic, but if he can hit open 3-pointers and stretch the floor, he’ll earn plenty of minutes. He also should work to get to the rim and reduce mid-range jumpers, which were a staple of his game last season with the Pacers.
Joseph isn’t going to play the 25.2 minutes per game that he saw last year in Indiana, but the Kings paid him handsomely to fit a role. That role is to go out and slow down elite offensive perimeter players that can be found all around the Western Conference.
Don’t expect a huge dip in numbers from the veteran point guard, if any, despite a potential reduction in minutes. The Kings’ frenetic pace allows everyone an equal opportunity to score and assists are easy to come by as well.
Fox is going to play the majority of the minutes at the lead guard spot, but that still leaves 14-18 minutes per game for Joseph to suit up. The two also can play alongside each other for stretches and potentially get his minutes closer to the 20 per game mark.
It’s a long 82 game schedule and there is going to be an opportunity for Joseph to make an impact for the Kings. Divac provided the depth necessary to compete, now head coach Luke Walton has to figure out how to fit all the pieces in.