Just two days before the 2014-2015 NBA season began, the Utah Jazz carried out a transaction that did not garner much attention, nor did it seem to be one to warrant it. When it was said and done, however, it proved to be an underrated move that contributed heavily to the team’s tremendous success.
On October 27th, the Jazz claimed swingman Joe Ingles off waivers. And Utah became a better team due to his addition.
Moreover, it appears that he figures into the team’s plans going forward, and rightfully so. To this eye, there are many reasons why the Jazz should and most likely will re-sign Ingles.
First, he has a nice story. Ingles, who had already played eight years of professional basketball, had long been on NBA teams’ radars. Throughout his stops in Australia, Spain and Israel, he had developed the reputation of a glue guy — a player who makes those around him better. His combination of shooting, passing and basketball acumen allowed him to adapt to different teams and styles. Ingles also proved to be a winner, helping win championships in Australia’s National Basketball League. Israel’s Ligit HaAl and Euroleague. Winning is always attractive to front offices and coaches, and he has done a lot of it throughout his career. Given the Jazz’s robust international scouting corps and head coach Quin Snyder’s experiences watching Ingles overseas, Utah was one of the many who was interested.
After a few flirtations with the NBA1, in 2014, Ingles decided it was finally time to make the big jump take his talents to the Association. He decided to try his chances with the Los Angeles Clippers, who had a need on the wings2. Ingles played decently, but ultimately found himself as the 16th man on a 15-man roster. Doc Rivers spoke glowingly of him and there were reports that they hoped he would clear waivers and somehow return to the Clippers’ roster.
LA’s loss, and Utah’s gain. The Jazz wasted no time, swooping in a picking him for a pittance. They severed ties with swingman Carrick Felix, despite his guaranteed contract. That is how much the Jazz liked him.
Without much practice experience, Ingles played in the season opener and almost immediately became a rotation player.
So why should Utah and Ingles work out another pact this summer?
From the sound of things at locker room clean-out, there appears to be mutual interest. While dollars will always figure into things, that is a great first step.
His statistics do not overwhelm. For the season, he averaged 5.0 PPG, 2.3 APG and 2.2 RPG. But after the All-Star break, Ingles stepped up in the midst of injuries and trades to be a key player, both as a starter and a reserve. Post-break, he jumped up to 6.7 PPG, while shooting 44 percent from the floor and a torrid 42.7 percent on 3-pointers. Together with Rodney Hood and Dante Exum, his shooting helped open things up for Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert down low, while alleviating the load Gordon Hayward was carrying.
Ingles is a facilitator first. While he was unselfish almost to a fault to start the season3, he became more aggressive. Ingles would not hesitate shooting a jumper, while also showy some shrewd, sneaky moves inside. He will never be described as being fleet of foot, but he showed an ability to penetrate and finish. Ingles also unleashed the occasional step-back triple. Still, his passing is probably his forte. With Utah’s offense being stagnant from time to time, Ingles could be counted on to help move the ball. When paired with Hayward, it opened things up. When he was part of the second unit, Ingles played the role of point forward a lot. That is a skill that is great to have off the pine. In most clutch situations, it was Ingles was Snyder appointed to make the inbound passes.
Ingles displayed hustle on defense, often getting his hands on loose balls. He did not back down from a battle and did not care who he was pitted against. While not possessing great speed, Ingles plays very good positional defense, managing to stay between his man and the basket.
Ingles’ versatility is also a strong suit. He was equally comfortable playing either swing position and even slid into power forward for the rare small lineup. While his calling will most likely be as a reserve, Ingles showed he could fill in very capably as a starter.
Despite his rookie status, and the requisite pink backpack, Ingles was one of the team’s oldest players. Given his established pro career, he was also among the most senior. It was clear that his teammates looked up to him. His affable, self-effacing and humorous personality seemed to add immensely to the feeling of the locker room. Ingles clearly had the trust of the Snyder and company. He always did what was asked of him, never complaining — a consummate professional. On a team that was working on gaining its identity, Ingles was very much a vital part of that process on and off the court. He fit in with the community, having regular media appearances. Along with teammates, Ingles stuck up for the organization when certain comments were made by a former Jazz player. His long-time relationship with Dante Exum also cannot be ignored.
While the Jazz will look to fortify some deficient areas — depth and perimeter shooting being some of them — the Jazz would do well to re-up Ingles. Regardless of how bold Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik and friends will be, there is a place for him here. He most likely will not break the bank.
Is he a franchise player? Of course not. But as he showed with each passing month of the season, Ingles showed that he can be a role player on a very good team. It would behoove the Jazz to keep him in the fold.