Joe Ingles may have the lowest usage rate of any player on the Jazz, but he still finds ways to contribute to the box score and it’s no coincidence that the Jazz’s success has run parallel with Ingles becoming a larger part of the team’s rotation.
Ingles had his best month in March, a period where he averaged 9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal per game while shooting 58% from the perimeter. During that time the Jazz went 10-6 and Ingles ranked fourth for most win shares on the team and was fourth highest in box plus-minus score on the team.
In only his third year in Salt Lake City, Joe Ingles has become one of the Jazz’s most important players.
You read that correctly. He isn’t a feel-good afterthought nor is my Aussie heritage making me bias, watch the last minutes of any Utah game… Ingles is on the court.
Even the games where he has only played minimal minutes, when it’s clutch, the Jazz rely on Ingles high IQ and basketball savvy.
I’m not saying he’s an All-Star like Gordon Hayward or an All-Defensive player of the year type like Rudy Gobert, but the Jazz need him. In fact if you look at NBA championship teams over the past five years, it becomes clear that every team needs a player like him.
Despite the “Slo-Mo Joe” nickname and the fact a 100m dash between Joe and teammate Boris Diaw could take longer than expected, Ingles has turned into the prototypical wing NBA play requires these days. Someone able to stroke threes, keep the ball moving and switch across multiple defensive assignments.
Utah doesn’t hesitate to trot out Ingles as its makeshift play-maker in times of need either. As a result, the Ingles-to-Hayward alley-oop play has become a fixture at Jazz games.
He finished fourth in the league from three-point land (shooting 44% from behind the line) on looks that don’t involve holding the ball. In fact, more than 80 percent of his deep balls have come off assists and Ingles is doing this while defending point guards, wings and even power forwards.
Only four players in the league are shooting over 40 percent from long range while averaging at least five assists and 2.5 steals per 100 possessions – Stephen Curry, Mike Conley, Chris Paul and Joe Ingles. That’s impossibly good company, especially when you’re playing less than anyone else.
Ingles is already one of the league’s few restricted free-agent risks. The Jazz (most likely) will have to pay Gordon Hayward and George Hill this season. Dante Exum and Rodney Hood are up for extensions. This creates an opportunity for outside teams to swoop in with aggressive, hard-to-match offers for the talented Aussie.
Just how aggressive those offers will be is up in the air but NBA teams are aware of the success other blue-collar, team first, high basketball IQ Australians have provided the Spurs, Warriors and Cavaliers in recent seasons.
The offers will be coming and the better Joe plays for the duration of the Jazz’s postseason push, the higher his already sneaky-high price tag will soar.
Ingles defence has risen to another level in recent months and his abilty to slide his feet hold the opposing wing in check has seen him neutralize the strengths of players including Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Jimmy Butler recently.
This talent may be unknown by some, but once the bright lights of the NBA playoffs shine the spotlight on Ingles, the offers will no doubt flood in.
Known by his teammates as a witty, locker room prankster and true glue guy, Ingles has shown no inclination of wanting to leave Salt Lake but the Jazz may have no choice but to let him walk if other teams throw out a monster offer sheet at the 29-year-old Aussie.