The NBA's only Canadian team has signed its second-ever Canadian player.
Toronto-born point guard Cory Joseph has agreed to a four-year, $30 million contract with the Raptors, according to ESPN.com and the Toronto Sun. The deal, which starts in the 2015-16 season and runs through 2018-19, reportedly includes a player option in the final season.
"We the North, here I come," Joseph, who spent the first four years of his career with the Spurs, wrote on Twitter. "A sincere thank you to all the fans, RC [Buford], coach [Popovich] and the entire Spurs organization for all the support over the last four years. [San Antonio] will always be close to my heart... had my first game and first championship here!"
Joseph, 23, averaged 6.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 79 games last season, stepping into a starting role at times when Tony Parker was out injured. The 2011 first-round pick is known for his ball-hawking defense, as he ranked No. 8 at his position in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, and his tempo-pushing ability on offense. A member of San Antonio's 2014 title team, Joseph split time behind Parker with Patty Mills, who was inked to a three-year, $12 million contract last summer. The Spurs surely would have liked to retain Joseph, given his fit with their system and Parker's regular absences from the lineup, but their other offseason moves, including the signing of All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to a four-year max deal, made that impossible.
This summer's free agency crop saw three big-money point guards—Goran Dragic, Brandon Knight and Reggie Jackson—and Joseph was arguably the most desirable second-tier floor general based on his youth and potential. His per-game and advanced numbers have steadily increased during his four-year career, and he looks more than ready to take on a larger role. In Toronto, he will serve as a third guard behind 2015 All-Star Kyle Lowry and 2014 All-Star DeMarDeRozan, filling minutes vacated by the departures of Lou Williams (signed with the Lakers) and Greivis Vasquez (traded to the Bucks). Joseph's arrival bumps 2015 first-round pick Delon Wright down the depth chart.
For GM Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey, Joseph's arrival should help with two stated goals: improving the team's perimeter defense and its ball movement. Joseph improved San Antonio's defensive efficiency from 100.3 to 98.3 when he took the court, and his 2.81 assist-to-turnover ratio and 25.8 assist ratio last season were better than Vasquez (barely) and Williams (by a mile). Joseph's postseason experience won't hurt on a team that has lost in the first round in each of the last two seasons.
This summer's best comparison points for Joseph's contract are Williams ($21 million over three years), Patrick Beverley ($30 million over four years) and Rodney Stuckey ($21 million over three years). Joseph is significantly less experienced and proven than all three, but he's also the youngest by three years. Although Ujiri is betting on further breakout, to be sure, that bet doesn't feel particularly loaded with risk given Joseph's lack of character or injury red flags. In sum, this looks like a defensible addition, even if it's guilty of being a hometown overpay. Thanks to his roster fit and the likelihood of continued development, there's a reasonable chance that Joseph winds up being the best signing of these four players.