Cory Joseph is joining his sixth team entering his 13th NBA season and will be 32 years old when he first wears a Warriors jersey after signing a one-year contract this summer in free agency.
He has seen and lived all angles of the game, from winning a championship in his third season to multiple trades and free-agency experiences. The veteran point guard isn’t taking playing with two future Hall of Famers at his position in Steph Curry and Chris Paul for granted now that he’s part of Golden State’s new-look backcourt.
Joseph calls his reality an “unbelievable opportunity” for himself.
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“I get to learn from two of the greats to ever do it at their position,” Joseph said Tuesday in an introductory Zoom with Bay Area media. “I'm extremely excited. I'm sure I'll get there and learn a lot from them.
“We’ve seen what Steph has been able to do with the 3 and kind of changed the game. CP, we all know how smart he is in the pick and roll."
Curry and Paul are two titans at the position. Both are at the back-end of their careers and will be recognized as all-time greats among points guards. Joseph is revered for his professionalism and leadership. He also is one of the smartest point guards in the league and coming off the two best 3-point shooting seasons of his career.
It’s the other side of the ball, though, that Joseph first brought in playing alongside Curry and Paul. The three have their own styles, which Joseph believes allows them to complement one another.
Golden State Warriors
“I'm trying to bring that tenacity defensively and try to do all the little things that might not be on the stat sheet but would help winning,” Joseph said. “I think we all kind of have different games, so we just can feed off each other.”
Per Basketball-Reference’s position estimate, Joseph solely played one position last season for the Detroit Pistons. He was a point guard 100 percent of the time.
The season before he played shooting guard 6 percent of the time in Detroit, and 12 percent for the Pistons in the 19 games he played for them after being traded by the Sacramento Kings. Still, Joseph sees himself as more than a traditional point guard who needs the ball in his hands at all times.
Leave that to Paul, who will have to change his style a bit too. People have to be able to play off-ball and on the run in coach Steve Kerr’s offense, and Joseph is perfectly happy in doing so.
“I'm comfortable playing off-ball,” he said. “Like I said, what I try to do is try to hang my hat on defense. If there's somebody that needs to be guarded off the ball, catch and shoot, I've been working hard on that over the last couple of years, and my numbers have been better and I plan to get even better at that.”
When Joseph’s number is called, he should be another 3-point threat the Warriors can trot out onto the court. He shot 38.9 percent from 3-point range last season, the second-best of his career. Joseph one season prior set his career high of 41.4 percent.
His game was geared towards the 3-point line more than ever last season, too. Joseph’s 19.8 minutes per game were the lowest of his career since 2014-15, his fourth season in the league. Yet, he took a career-high 2.9 3s per game and 51.3 percent of his total field goals were 3-point attempts.
What Joseph knows his main responsibility will be in a world where his role will fluctuate is simple: Take care of the ball. It’s what he has been best at and what the Warriors need most. They led the NBA in assists per game but also turnovers per game. That kind of rockiness throughout a season isn’t a winning recipe.
But Joseph’s 3.9 assist to turnover ratio last season is. So is Paul’s 4.6. His was the fourth-best mark in the league last season, and Joseph came in at eighth.
The Warriors believe that kind of care for the ball will help them get back to contending for another title. Joseph won his lone ring thus far in 2014 as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. He was 22 years old then, and the 31-year-old sees similarities in the Spurs still being led by their core of Tim Duncan (37), Manu Ginobili (36) and Tony Parker (31). Curry will be 36 in March, the same month Draymond Green turns 34 and one month after Klay Thompson does. Paul is 38 and in his 19th season.
The Spurs also had a 22-year-old named Kawhi Leonard in his third season. Oh, well hello there, Year 3 Jonathan Kuminga.
Nine seasons have gone by since Joseph last was a champion. Curry is aiming for his fifth parade and Paul his first. Joseph is here to be part of another dynasty, learning from more icons in real time.
“They've had major success, but I just have to continue to try to add to that,” Joseph said. “We all know that they have a dynasty over there just like San Antonio when I entered. Just gotta add to that.”