Joseph's Play Better Suited for NBA

Kris Joseph

Kris Joseph dropped in a team-high 17 points Thursday and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty

ORLANDO, Fla. – Many Syracuse fans expected Kris Joseph to burst onto the scene as a First Team All-American during his junior and senior seasons in upstate New York. That never happened, and maybe the reason is because he wasn’t playing the right game.

Joseph has always been known to have the tools necessary to become a great basketball player. After dropping team highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds on the Detroit Pistons Thursday afternoon in his fourth professional basketball game, Joseph wasn’t shy about claiming that his skills are much more tailored to the NBA style than the collegiate game.

“The floor is so spread at the offensive end that you’re able to get more attacks to the basket,” said Joseph. “Guys can’t stand in the key and just wait there to take charges. So that makes the game a lot easier from that standpoint. Not to say that it’s easy, but it makes it easier than college.”

It certainly seems that way for Joseph, because he is standing out nearly every day in Orlando amongst the likes of many first-round draft picks.

If you remember correctly, the Celtics selected Joseph with the 51st overall pick of the draft just two weeks ago. He clearly wasn’t viewed as a top NBA prospect by most NBA front offices, but the Celtics saw something, and it’s paying off quickly.

Joseph’s summer league coach, Tyronn Lue, wants to bring a new level of aggressiveness out of Joseph at the onset of his professional career. Lue doesn’t want selfishness, but he does want to see heightened aggression.

“When he has the ball we want him to attack and be aggressive,” said Lue. “I think he’s doing a good job of that. Hopefully he’ll continue to play that way.”

When asked if he believes that Joseph will excel more in the NBA game than he did in college, Lue quickly responded by saying, “Oh yeah, for sure. He’s a guy who’s more of a slasher, cutter. He can shoot it. I think he’s strong when he goes to the hole; he’s getting contact. And he follows his shot really well. He’s a quick jumper – his second jump is really quick. I think he’s really good, I just think the main thing is to keep him aggressive, keep him attacking.”

That's high praise for a player selected with a late-second-round pick. However, those descriptions are all well deserved to this point, thanks in large part to the aggression Lue is asking of him.

Five players from the Celtics and Pistons logged more minutes than Joseph did on Thursday, yet no players attempted more shots. He fired up 16 attempts, connecting on six, and put the onus on the defense more often than not. His aggression led to seven free throw attempts.

Scoring the basketball wasn’t the only area where Joseph was assertive. He also continually crashed the glass at both ends of the floor. As we all know, the Celtics haven’t exactly been the best rebounding team in the NBA the past few seasons, and Doc Rivers loves when his perimeter players can rebound. Joseph showed yet again that he can do that by grabbing a game-high 11 boards against Detroit. The 6-foot-7 swingman understands that he will need to excel in the rebounding department if he is going to find a niche in this league.

“One thing I always want to keep a conscious effort of doing is rebounding the ball,” said Joseph, “and I think that I’ve been doing a pretty good job of doing that, just staying on both ends of the glass.”

Joseph also commented on the benefits his team can yield from his rebounding.

“For instance, offensive rebounds, you could – that’s an extra possession for your team,” he said. “I could get a basket, get a foul called, get my team an open shot, because everyone’s crashing and I can kick it out. That’s just something I want to keep doing, because that’s something that I don’t feel I got to show as much as I wanted to at Syracuse. Just rebounding the ball, using my length, using my athleticism to my advantage is what I’m trying to do.”

While Joseph has been showing off his skills, he has also made sure to savor the fact that he’s wearing Celtics gear and rubbing shoulders with NBA players.

“It’s been great, man,” he said of the first four days of summer league. “This is something you always dream about.”

Maybe that’s because this is the game he was supposed to be playing all along.