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NBA PM: Joe Ingles’ Quietly Vital Progression

Ben Dowsett uses a single Quin Snyder quote to break down Joe Ingles’ vital importance to the Jazz.

Ben Dowsett

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Jazz coach Quin Snyder isn’t generally a man of broad, sweeping platitudes. That doesn’t mean he won’t compliment his team and players, of course – he’s just not the type to wax too poetic or waste too much time reflecting. He’s very much about the now; next play, next game. His team has followed suit.

Even Snyder breaks form every now and then, though, whether intentionally or otherwise. Perhaps without even meaning for it to happen, a recent postgame quote about swingman Joe Ingles’ contributions to a win over the Clippers ended up, in Snyder’s own deeply technical way, succinctly summing up much of Ingles’ entire NBA career.

“He figured out that he could shoot, and started shooting. And then people started having to close out on him, and he’s able to use his shot to get in the lane. And then he figured out how to shoot a floater and a little scoop shot, so he became even more effective in the paint. He’s actually a really good finisher, which – not to diminish his athleticism, but you don’t necessarily see that from Joe. He’s crafty in there. I think he’s learned to use fakes, to dig into it a little bit from a coach’s standpoint. Ball fakes, pass fakes, shot fakes. And with his size, he’s able to see…. I like to say he’s got his eyes out.”

Snyder was answering a question about Ingles’ single-game performance against Los Angeles; he ended up summarizing over a full year’s worth of development. It’s a progression few would have thought possible from a 29-year-old former journeyman pro.

Snyder’s comments are curiously fitting, though. Ingles’ rapid ascension didn’t begin in the playoffs, and it certainly didn’t even begin at the start of the year. But in a series where the Jazz now stand on the brink of jamming the first big nail in the coffin of the Lob City Clippers, every step on the development ladder Snyder described for Ingles has been on display – and has been more needed than nearly anyone might expect.

*****

“He figured out he could shoot, and started shooting.”

When Ingles first arrived in Salt Lake City, he was tentative. It was nothing like his early days playing professionally in Australia; one observer from that time period described him as an “unapologetic gunner.”

In Utah, Ingles had to be slowly convinced that he was, in fact, a great NBA shooter. Despite solid shooting numbers in his NBA rookie season, at age 27, Ingles became almost infamous for his willingness to pass up open shots. He was one of the new guys in a motion offense, and no one wants to come off as selfish – Ingles may have taken this a bit too far.

The issue lingered for most of that rookie season, but movement started the following year. Ingles upped his three-point attempts by nearly two per-36-minutes for the 2015-16 season, scraping at 40 percent accuracy. He and fellow complementary piece Raul Neto were the two best volume three-point shooters on the team that year.

Ingles’ attempts decreased this year, but that’s only because everyone finally figured it out. He was third in the entire NBA for three-point percentage among qualified players on the year, approaching 50 percent for stretches earlier in November and December.

Curiously, this is the one element of Snyder’s statement about Ingles that hasn’t been noticeable in this first-round series – Ingles is shooting a weird 33 percent from deep against the Clippers. Again, though, the broad theme is present: It’s the next several levels of development that have made him valuable, just as they began to before the postseason even started.

*****

“And then people started having to close out on him, and he’s able to use his shot to get in the lane.”

There’s a reason Ingles’ three-point attempts went back down this year: Defenses wised up. When you nail nearly half of them for the first month of the season, you quickly become more prominent on the scouting report. If a defense’s fear of your long bomb lays out a red carpet like this, there really isn’t much choice but to take it.

The percentage of Ingles’ shots that have come at the rim has increased each year he’s been in the league, and nearly doubled from 2015-16 to 2016-17.

Snyder has talked often about Ingles as a non-traditional rookie. He’s not the right age, so maybe he isn’t still developing physically, but that doesn’t mean he can’t develop skills. This was the first layer.

*****

“And then he figured out how to shoot a floater and a little scoop shot, so he became even more effective in the paint.”

The path to the rim wasn’t always going to be so easy. You need some craft against the better defenses in the league, or really against any focused playoff team.

Psh. Joe Ingles and craft go together like Vegemite, avocado and toast (seriously, this is a real Australian thing).

With a couple handy tricks in the bag, Ingles could start getting into the lane even when the defense wasn’t basically inviting it. He’s upped his drives to the basket by a significant per-minute margin, per SportVU data; a higher and higher percentage of these drives has led to his own shot attempt rather than a pass.

In a series where the opponent has DeAndre Jordan, though, even more is necessary for a ball-handler. Luckily, Ingles had already taken those next steps too.

*****

“He’s crafty in there. I think he’s learned to use fakes, to dig into it a little bit from a coach’s standpoint. Ball fakes, pass fakes, shot fakes. And with his size, he’s able to see… I like to say he’s got his eyes out.”

Ingles has never been the type to blow by guys every time down the court, so he’s had to learn to maximize the way defenses react to him. Few guys have a better ball fake.

Chris Paul is the league’s gold standard for influencing defenders with every little movement; Ingles has looked positively Point God-ish at times this year, whether he’s creating his own offense or someone else’s.

And that’s the point, really. Ingles has become so good at getting to the right spots on the floor that he’s not really the one deciding whether he passes or finishes – the defense is doing that for him. He’s driving the Clippers mad through five games.

On a roster featuring George Hill, Gordon Hayward and even Boris Diaw, Ingles is Utah’s playoff assists leader. His 11 dimes in Game 4 is the most by any Jazz player in a single game all year.

Almost no one in the entire NBA postseason has thrown more meaningful passes: The percentage of Ingles passes that leads to a positive team event trails only Russell Westbrook and John Wall among volume passers, per SportVU figures – ahead of Paul, LeBron James and some of the other consensus best playmakers on earth.

And of course, none of this even addresses perhaps his largest development this year: Defense.

Ingles quietly became a weapon for Snyder here as the year went on. His lack of athleticism seems like a mirage; those same crafty themes we saw on offense have infiltrated his defensive game as well. He uses his body as well as anyone in the game, with sneaky hands and fantastic anticipation. He’s made life absolute hell for J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford in this series.

“Just keep chasing,” Ingles said of guarding Redick, who has barely managed 32 percent from deep in the series (he’s a career 41 percent three-point shooter). “Chase, and chase, and chase. He’s tough to guard. He obviously doesn’t stop. Gets a good look, jumps in the air, passes it off, goes back and gets another hand-off. So [I’m] just trying to make it tough.”

Ingles wasn’t quite his playmaking self in Game 5, and there’s a good chance it has to do with fatigue from the raw volume of his defensive load. When he isn’t chasing Redick around 10 picks every possession, he’s checked Crawford or even Paul – Snyder began experimenting with Ingles on the kinds of quicker guards the Jazz struggle to contain earlier in the year, and he’s clearly confident in Ingles there.

“They’re both tough,” Ingles said. “Chris obviously, in a different way because he’s so good with the ball, so good at using the pick and reading the defense. J.J., Jamal, those guys coming off the screen, it’s obviously hard to do that as well. Totally different style of defending, but pretty tough either way.”

Whichever Clipper shooter he’s on, that guy has gone ice cold. Los Angeles jump-shooters are hitting at a clip over 20 percent below their season averages from given areas while Ingles guards them, a huge enough gap that we can feel relatively safe blowing past the noisy caveats that typically accompany these numbers. This isn’t some sample-related mirage; Ingles is locking down and earning every bit of any pesky reputation he may have.

That might not be all he’s earning, either. Ingles’ future is a quietly big topic in Utah behind bigger names in Hayward and Hill; he and Hayward share an agent, Mark Bartlestein, and the two are close friends off the court.

The Jazz control Ingles’ rights as a restricted free agent this summer, a valuable layer of security. But they still run the risk of being forced to match a big offer – or, perhaps more relevant in this situation, of pressure from Bartlestein to keep both clients happy simultaneously. Money gets tight in a hurry if all three players are retained at anywhere near their market value.

That’s not on anyone’s mind for now, though. On a team chock full of developing youth, perhaps Utah’s biggest surprise this season – and especially this postseason – has been the guy who wasn’t a rookie until he was 27. Joe Ingles’ development has been quietly huge for the Jazz, and even Snyder can be forgiven the occasional reflective moment to appreciate it.

Ben Dowsett is a Deputy Editor and in-depth basketball analyst based in Salt Lake City. He covers the Jazz on a credentialed basis for Basketball Insiders, and has previously appeared in the Sports Illustrated and TrueHoop Networks. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.

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NBA

Trae Young Believes He’s NBA Ready

Trae Young has exceeded expectations since his freshman year of college, and he believes he will continue to do so in the NBA

Matt John

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Before the collegiate season started, many believed that the best players in the upcoming NBA draft were going to be bigs. DeAndre Ayton, Mo Bamba, and Michael Porter Jr., all of whom were 6’10’’ or taller, were considered to be among the top prospects coming out of the NCAA, but Trae Young had something to say about that.

Coming out of high school, Young was regarded as one of the better incoming freshmen, but not among the best of the best. Young ranked no. 23 in ESPN’s top 100 in 2017 and was ranked third among point guards, behind Collin Sexton and Jaylen Hands, which led to low expectations for him. Young proved right out of the gate that he was much better than the scouts had rated him.

Young tore up college ball as an Oklahoma Sooner, as he averaged 27.2 points and 8.7 assists while shooting 42 percent from the field including 36 percent from three. While Young’s play made him stand out among his peers, it didn’t translate into much success on the court. The Sooners went 18-14 on the season and were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Now that the season is over, Young is shifting his focus to his next stop: the NBA. With the draft coming up in just a little over a month, only one word comes to mind when describing Young’s current mindset: Confidence.

“I bring a lot of things to the next level. I think I would bring an immediate impact off the court as much as I do on the court,” Young said at the NBA combine. “I can space out the defense. I can attack defenders in multiple ways, get my teammates involved. I think I can pretty much do it all for a team and I’m looking forward to whichever team I go to and making a huge impact.”

While Young is not expected to be picked in the top five, he should be picked between the six to ten range. Any player who is selected in that range has to work his absolute hardest to live up to the lengthy expectations that he will certainly face once he enters the NBA. Young luckily sounds like he is up to the task.

“I prepared extremely hard coming into the college season and making a huge impact right away, and I’m working two times as hard this summer preparing to get into the NBA level,” Young said. “I want to make a huge impact right away.”

Young is expected to be a high lottery pick, but he doesn’t care much for where he is selected as much as he cares about going to the team that suits him best.

“My main focus is going to the right team. It’s not about going one, two, three or 30. You see a lot of guys going in the second round in certain years that make big impacts for teams,” Young said. “It’s all about the fit for me. Whether that’s one or whether that’s whatever it is, I’m going to be happy and I’m going to be ready to make an impact.”

Young’s expected high draft position stems from his electrifying play as a scorer in college. Young’s performance for Oklahoma his freshman year was impressive enough to draw comparisons to NBA megastar Stephen Curry. While Young is flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as Curry, he takes pride in being his own player.

“He’s a two-time MVP and a champion. I mean, I love the comparison but I feel like I bring a lot of different things from different players’ games to the table,” Young said. “I’m just trying to be the best version of Trae Young. That’s all that matters to me. I’m just getting started in this thing so hopefully I can achieve some of those things.”

Young’s skillset may remind fans of Curry, but Young prides himself on modeling his game after his favorite player of all time: Steve Nash.

“With his size and my size, we’re pretty similar,” Young said. “He is very cerebral. He can score on all three levels and he knows how to get his teammates involved. He’s a winner so I feel like a lot of his characteristics match with mine.”

Those who have watched Young know of his offensive repertoire, but skeptics have pointed to his defensive shortcomings as a red flag. Young, however, believes his play at the combine will show that he can be a positive on the other side of the ball.

“I’m excited about having the opportunity to show people that I can play defense, and I’m excited to show that from day one,”

When all is said and done, Young may very well wind up being the most prolific scorer to come out of what many believe is a loaded draft, but Young has much bigger ambitions in mind for his career.

“I think I’m the best overall player in this draft, but my main focus isn’t necessarily to be the best player in this draft,” Young said. “My goal is to be the best player in the NBA. That’s what I’m focusing on each and every day.”

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NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine

Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.

Jesse Blancarte

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UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.

While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.

Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”

Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.

Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.

“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.

I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”

Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.

“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.

Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.

“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.

Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.

Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.

“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18

The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Lots of Draft Movement

With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.

The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.

It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.

Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:

Dates To Know:

The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.

The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.

The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.

The Pick Swaps:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. This pick will convey.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.

The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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