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It’s time to bench Cory Joseph

Cory Joseph may bring a veteran presence to the Kings, but his on-court production is just too limited to justify his playing time

When the Sacramento Kings inked Cory Joseph to a three-year, $37 million contract a couple of summers ago, most folks were pretty understanding of what Vlade Divac was trying to accomplish with the acquisition. Joseph brought a championship pedigree to a team with no such experience, and his accomplishments on the defensive end of the floor were well known. As a team that had prioritized scoring for the last decade-plus, it was an encouraging sign to snag such a highly rated perimeter stopper. Unfortunately, while Joseph's veteran presence has remained throughout his time in Sacramento, his defensive impact has fallen off of a cliff in 2020, while his offensive limitations have never been more prevalent.

Last year, the Kings were slightly worse on offense with Joseph, as they scored 1.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the court, an understandable decrease considering his lack of shooting. Conversely, Sacramento was much better with him on the floor when it came to stopping opponents. He posted the best defensive point differential of any player who was with the team for the entire season, as the Kings allowed 5 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was in the game. Overall, Sacramento's net rating increased by 3.5 points with Cory on the court, the second-best mark among the same group of players.

Perhaps even more notable than the team’s performance was the impact that Joseph had on De’Aaron Fox when they shared the floor in 2019. Fox’s individual defensive rating plummeted from 117.1 on his own to 103 when Joseph joined him in the backcourt. In total, De'Aaron's net rating jumped from -6.4 without Cory to +4.9 with him, a jaw-droppping increase of +11.3. No matter the frustrations with Joseph's lack of offensive firepower last year, his impact on the court was clear, especially with Sacramento's young, developing players. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the 2020 campaign.

With Joseph on the court this season, Sacramento’s offensive rating has decreased by 3.6 points on average, a significant difference from year to year. For an inexplicable reason, Joseph’s offensive aggression has actually increased, and there are many times in which he’s flat-out selfish with the ball. Overall, he’s taking 1.3 additional field goal attempts per-36 minutes, and when Cory drives into the paint, he’s passing the ball just 42% of the time, compared to 53% in 2019. Transition opportunities have also shown Joseph’s penchant for calling his own number and subsequently failing, as he’s scoring 0.76 points per possession in the open court, ranking in the 5th percentile league-wide, a far cry from his 1.09 points per possession last season, which placed him in the 45th percentile.

While Joseph’s offensive deterioration has been one of the most frustrating things to watch in an incredibly frustrating season, his defensive slippage has developed into an even larger concern. Unlike in 2019, in which the Kings were significantly betterdefensively with Joseph on the hardwood, they’re now far worse with him in the game. Sacramento is currently allowing 3.8 more points per 100 possessions with Joseph in the lineup, the second-worst mark on the team to only Marvin Bagley. Joseph is killing the Kings on offense, and he's somehow been even less effective on the defensive end of the floor.

Cory's magical partnership with De'Aaron Fox has also crashed and burned and been subsequently nuked by foreign powers this year. In the 252 minutes in which Fox and Joseph have shared the court, De'Aaron has posted a net rating of -24.7. No, that's not a typo. In his time without Joseph, Fox has recorded a net rating of -0.4. To put all of that into perspective, the Fox-Joseph pairing has posted a net rating differential of -35.6 from 2019 to 2020.

At first glance, it’s easy to assign some of the blame for Joseph’s lack of impact on Sacramento’s horrific bench production, as the reserve unit is clearly worse in 2020, but his individual performance has suffered right alongside his teammates’. Last season, Joseph’s opponents saw their individual field goal percentage decrease slightly when defended by him, dropping from 45.4% to 44.8%, slightly better than an average NBA guard. This year, Joseph’s opponents are shooting 51.7% from the floor, an increase of 5.7% from their average, the eighth-worst mark of any guard in the league. For comparison’s sake, Buddy Hield, one of the worst reputation defenders in the league, sits third-worst at 8.3%.

The three-point line has also not been kind to the Kings or to Cory this year. As a team, Sacramento ranks 30th in three-pointers surrendered, 26th in three-point attempts allowed, and 29th in opponent three-point percentage differential, and Cory Joseph has been the Kings most disappointing performer in that scenario. Of the 200 NBA players who have defended at least 75 three-pointers, Joseph ranks 189th in opponent field goal percentage differential. On the year, he’s allowing opposing players to increase their average three-point percentage by an astounding 8.8%, from a league-average 36.4% to prime Steph Curry at 45.2%. Once again, thtat's a massive divergence from 2019, in which he reduced his opponents’ average three-point percentage by 2.8%, the third-best mark of any Kings player.

From different interviews and press conferences, it's clear that Joseph has helped this team in a myriad of ways off of the court, especially by taking young players like Tyrese Haliburton under his wing, but for far too long, veteran leadership has been a justification for playing time in Sacramento. We witnessed it with Iman Sumpert. We witnessed it with Zach Randolph. And now we're witnessing it with Cory Joseph. With Kyle Guy and DaQuan Jeffries waiting in the wings in a developmental season, and with this team headed nowhere fast, it's past time for Luke Walton to reassess Cory Joseph's role on the court and make him a permanent veteran presence on the bench.

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February 24, 2021 10:55 am

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Last edited 1 month ago by Kosta
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
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Nostradumbass 19
February 24, 2021 11:45 am
Reply to  Kosta

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February 24, 2021 12:00 pm
Reply to  Kosta

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February 24, 2021 11:00 am

I agree that even if you throw out the litany of damning stats that you put together so nicely, it just makes sense to have the younger guys take those minutes.

The one stat about taking an additional 1.3 shots per 36 minutes is a bit of a stretch, though. I can’t put an extra four shots every three games into a context of selfishness. That’s micro-shit, though, I’m in full agreement with the macro.

February 24, 2021 11:34 am
Reply to  andy_sims

Yep, the extra shots don’t mean anything to me either. It is function of the opponent daring him to score. He will often dribble into trouble cut off from every egress, and his only way out is to hurl trash at the rim.

February 24, 2021 11:30 am

The irony is the coach who thought CoJoSlo would give him the best chance to save his fledgling career instead is going to play significant role in ending it, with a hat tip to Buddy Yield.

And the guy Fluke mistrusted in Kyle Guy is the guy if he had the “courage and audacity” to show some faith and resolve with a burgeoning talent could have possibly saved his career.

Kyle Guy is withering away when in so many regards he is way we need to catalyze Buddy and Bagley and get them moved from neutral to negative contributors to the plus column.

Coach Faultin’ was not going to stick around unless he won games he was not expected to win, and the games he has won have coincided with Fox going nuclear and are three other core players playing at their peak.

That is why when the Kings were 12-11 and fans were wanting to give the coach credit you did not hear a peep of praise from me!

The real test came when they cooled off and as injuries struck. That is when coaches earn their mettle and this coach failed.

You don’t get anywhere in life in any area of life if you are not bold, willing to bely convention, dare to make smart bets in anticipation of future trends.

But Fluke did not get to where he is as an NBA coach through guile and ingenuity, those traits have atrophied if he ever had them. He got to where he is through connections and nepotism, and a Hall of Fame father which landed him a role player role with LAL which connected him to Vlade and the rest is history.

Maybe this is too harsh, and there is a work ethic there. But the mind is not cooperating with the will to succeed, and the ego is in the way to change direction. Pride cometh before the fall (firing)!

Whatever the underlying reason, the real problem is not CoJo the player, it is the coach who enables said player, not only with consistent rotational minutes, but assignment to the most lethal scorer on the opponent!

Your article is nice, but these variables have to be considered too. Joseph is bad and he is being given tremendous responsibility to check the likes of Butler, Harden and LaVine.
This makes his allotted playing time even worse, and compounds the magnitude of his incompetence.

But to end on a bright note if it helps us to land future NBA All-Star Jonathon Kuminga, it will have all been worth it!

February 24, 2021 11:37 am

Just wish we had a better prospect then Kyle Guy to take CJ’s minutes.

February 24, 2021 11:41 am
Reply to  NotAlwaysLogic

Kyle Guy is a great propsect who has underperformed bc his minutes have been so sporadic. He has never been given fair chance to win the backup PG role. Give him 5-10 games and then if he fails your critique will be warranted.

February 24, 2021 3:05 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

Agree to disagree on Kyle Guy. He’s a major defensive liability and we need to improve in this area.

February 24, 2021 12:24 pm
Reply to  NotAlwaysLogic

Ramsey is obviously green as hell, but let him learn on the job while the wins don’t matter.

February 24, 2021 12:30 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

I had a higher opinion of Ramsey before seeing him against NBA competition. He has the size of a PG, but he lacks PG skills. He looks too small to be a SG. Where does he fit

If we are going to shift to development phase, then there is room for Guy, Woodward and Jefferies to strut their stuff. I think that is about it.

I exclude James and Ramsey until they show more G-League production. James is a lost cause to me, another wing in a PG physique.

Ramsey is the 9th youngest player in the NBA per the Herald Podcast, so we still have to wait on him, let him average 20/5 in the G-League and then he will have a claim to the Big Show.

February 24, 2021 6:46 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

While Guy has surprised me by actually being able to get his shot off more than I thought he would, he is still who he is, too small to ever guard anyone. He may end being capable of growing into the sparkplug guard off the bench, but we need a true backup to Fox.

The rookie Quickley from NY would be an ideal backup for Fox, but Ramsey is far more likely to end up closer to the player we need than Guy is.

February 24, 2021 8:09 pm
Reply to  NotAlwaysLogic

Ramsey sucks. I don’t see him worth the effort to develop.

Nostradumbass 18
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Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
February 24, 2021 11:45 am

CoJo is a NoGo?

February 24, 2021 11:47 am

Can’t spell Cory Joseph without Porsche Joy.

February 24, 2021 11:51 am

Cojoke……nice guy but lost another step this season. I just don’t get if Walton wants to win as many games as possible to save his lame duck a*s why he would continue to give Joseph these many minutes ahead of others when stats are showing how bad he is. After all, isn’t Walton the guy “thrived” on watching game films?

February 24, 2021 12:07 pm
Reply to  02kingsfan

They are secret Tank agents

February 24, 2021 12:36 pm
Reply to  02kingsfan

Exactly even if he missed how poor he was live and in real time he had a chance to catch the playback. So not only is he wrong, he’s wrong after multiple viewings! And even if he does bench Joseph now, it is too late. The damage has been done.

February 24, 2021 12:00 pm

My thumb took over my brain and pushed ‘power’ on the remote in the midst of the second straight possession of CoJo-Whiteside PnR action a few games ago.

February 24, 2021 12:06 pm

Tim, where are those individual defensive stats, the one what shows CoJo and Buddy towards the bottom of the list? I’d love to sit down with a beer and see just how bad most of our guys are.

February 24, 2021 12:18 pm

Death, taxes, and Cory Joseph dying on screens…He doesn’t even attempt to fight over screens or quickly go under, just stops, and finds himself either out of position or trailing his man to the bucket. It has been so frustrating to watch.

February 24, 2021 12:25 pm

Walton’s going to need a larger sample size.comment image

February 24, 2021 12:31 pm

Yes, you clearly stated with excellent writing and stat citations what me and everyone else can see with their eyeballs. Luke Walton would rather play 5 or 6 guys like 40 minutes each than spread the minutes around. We need a top 7 pick, not an 8-14 pick with no playoffs, he’s dumb enough to desperately try too hard and achieve the latter.

February 24, 2021 1:19 pm

Good points, it’s been tough watching when he’s in this year. Give the minutes to Guy, we might as well try to develop our young talent.

Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
February 24, 2021 1:22 pm

Yikes, those numbers are even worse than my eyeball evaluation of CoJo. That guy really shouldn’t be seeing the floor.

I find it interesting and annoying that Luke can’t find minutes for Nemanja in a shallow frontcourt but seems to have ample minutes for CoJo in a deep backcourt. It makes me wonder if Walton has any clue as to what he is doing.

February 24, 2021 1:29 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

how dare you question your tank commander

February 24, 2021 3:22 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

This pretty much sums it up Adam. I am hoping Walton gets fired just so he doesn’t slow the development any further of our young guys.

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