Jinglin’ Joe Ingles is headed back to the Utah Jazz after signing the biggest deal of his career, and he’s far from overpaid.
At first glance, Joe Ingles doesn’t look like the guy who’d be signing a four-year, $52 million contract. He’s 6-8 but not anywhere near as explosive as some of the NBA’s premier forwards. On top of that, he isn’t an unguardable shot creator with a lightning-quick crossover. Instead, Ingles is the guy who does a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score.
This past season was his third in the NBA and was his best by far. Ingles appeared in all 82 games and averaged 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 24.0 minutes of action. Those are nice well-rounded numbers given the time Quin Snyder allocated him. Furthermore, the molasses run a faster offense that the Jazz. Basketball Reference has them at the slowest pace in the league at 91.6 possession a night. Given Utah’s sometimes dull style of play, the numbers don’t pop unless you extrapolate them, and Ingles put up 15.4 points, 6.9 boards, 6.0 dimes and 2.6 assists per 100 possessions, making him one of seven guys to do that while playing at least 1,900 minutes.
Also Read: Would You Rather Jrue Holiday or Jeff Teague?
Even with that versatility, Ingles best skill is his outside shooting. He rattled in 123 threes at a 44.1 percent clip, third-best in the NBA. More than 60 percent of his shots came from downtown, and that’s what Utah wants Ingles to do. He may not have a broad skillset when it comes to scoring, but that’s not what the Jazz need. Gordon Hayward generates a lot of their offense. As long as the floor is spaced, he’ll be able to slash to the rim and make things happen. Whether he scores or kicks it out is on him, but it’s certainly better when one of Hayward’s safety nets is a lights-out shooter.
According to Synergy, more than one-third of Ingles’ offense involved spot up jumpers — 33.8 percent to be exact. He landed in the 84th percentile with 1.15 points per possession, and he boasted an effective field goal percentage of 63.6 percent.
Almost all of Ingles’ offensive value is wrapped up in his ability to shoot. This isn’t a bad thing. However, such a decently-sized deal for a limited scorer seems like a bad idea. But it’s not. Even when Ingles isn’t scoring, he’s not someone the defense can forget. Whoever guards him is forced to stick to him like a toddler with their parents, and that opens up things for everyone else. In theory, it’s easier for anyone to get to the basket and it also gives Rudy Gobert more space to operate when rolling after setting screens.
Additionally, Ingles is a decent passer and reads the game very well — of course, these are byproducts of a lack of athleticism. His assist-to-turnover ratio is two-to-one, which is solid for a player who isn’t tasked with being a primary ball handler. What’s more is that Ingles plays within himself and doesn’t try to make the home run play. Back in April, during Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs, Ingles shredded the Clippers as the pick-and-roll ball handler en route to tallying 11 assists; it was like watching a 6-8 Chris Paul. He had remarkable poise, did a great job keeping the defender on his hip and routinely got into the paint, forcing the big man to commit. After that, Ingles made a simple pass for an easy bucket.
That’s not something he’s going to do each night, but the Jazz can go to that and keep the defense guessing.
The reason Ingles is getting about $13 million a year is his defense. And that’s the side of the court that’s not so easy to quantify. It’s gotten better with advanced metrics like defensive win shares and defensive box plus/minus, but it’s still hard to statistically represent his value.
Throughout the campaign, regular and postseason, Ingles thrived with a combination of versatility and aggression. He has no problems switching between shooting guard, small forward or power forward, and Rudy Gobert’s injury in the playoffs almost forced Ingles to be Utah’s defensive anchor. I don’t believe that Ingles would be as effective a defender on a bad team. (Then again, few players would be.) His lack of athleticism is concerning, but he puts himself in the right spots more often than not. The aggression that he plays with stems from having strong help defense, and it almost doesn’t matter if he gets beat because Gobert’s got his back. Regardless, Ingles applies a lot of pressure on the perimeter and is just bothersome. When he’s playing guards, the size is an issue for them, and Ingles always has his hands up.
Also Read: The 76ers Have Already Had a Tremendous Offseason
It was more noticeable in the playoffs, and he clung to J.J. Redick like he was his shadow. Ingles contested each shot with gusto and just made his life hell. There was deflection after deflection in addition to all the missed shots. Because Ingles plays both ends so well, it wasn’t an issue that his attempts weren’t falling. Overall, he made just 36.6 percent of his threes. It was a bigger deal against the Warriors because the Jazz had no shot if their offense floundered even a little bit. That’s what happened.
Regardless, Ingles’ primary focus shifted to defense. He averaged two steals a night in 30.4 minutes, and his DBPM ballooned to plus-5.2 in the postseason. Ingles ranked seventh among players who averaged at least 20 minutes a night, per Basketball Reference.
The contract Ingles got isn’t egregious by any means. Utah knows what he can do. They value him for the little things — his activity, ability to shoot and, most importantly, his relationship with Gordon Hayward. Ingles and Hill had the strongest bonds with Hayward, and it was almost a necessity to retain Ingles after trading for Ricky Rubio. The deal with Minnesota makes it seem like Utah’s going to let Hill walk, but Ingles still gives them a bit of leverage when talking to Hayward.
Start a conversation with me on Twitter