Joseph to take backup role behind Parker

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NBA Draft

Spurs’ Cory Joseph answers questions from the media Saturday June 25, 2011 at the Spurs practice facility. (San Antonio Express-News, Edward Ornelas)

When Cory Joseph announced that he would remain in the NBA Draft and forego his three remaining years at Texas, he left a lot of people scratching their heads.

“Hurts me to say this, but Cory Joseph could be on [the] D-League All-Rookie team next year,” said ESPN basketball analyst Fran Frasc hilla in early May, via his Twitter account.

But when the San Antonio Spurs picked him in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft with a No. 29 pick, it became clear that Joseph had made the right decision.

“I know the team is very close and it’s a great organization,” said Joseph at his introductory press conference Saturday in San Antonio. “I was very happy.”

In one season at Texas, Joseph mostly played two-guard, averaging 10 points and three assists a game. With the Spurs, he projects to be at the point (which is where he played in high school), in a back-up role behind Tony Parker.

It looks like the perfect fit. Before the draft, there were rumors that San Antonio was looking to trade starting point guard Tony Parker. On draft night, the Spurs instead traded backup point guard George Hill to Indiana, essentially opening the door for Joseph to get significant minutes behind Parker.

“He had a very good freshman year at Texas, we saw him a lot,” said Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford. “We think he has terrific defensive qualities, terrific Spurs qualities and was one of the best freshman guards in the country.”

At six-foot-three, Joseph has the size to succeed in the NBA. And with 41 percent behind the three-point line, he has the stroke, too. What worried some scouts was below-average speed for a point guard and a possible inability to create shots for himself. Despite what any other team thought, San Antonio had targeted him from day one.

“We knew the guy we were focused on was Cory,” Buford said. “To have that play out is exciting for us.”