When most people tune in to watch the Utah Jazz, they find themselves focused in on budding All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. They aren’t wrong for doing this. Both players have monumental impacts for the team in various areas.
At the same time, most don’t turn on the TV in hopes of watching Joe Ingles. But after watching the veteran Australian play for even a few quarters, it is easy to see why so many avid viewers are in his corner.
As trade talks begin to pick up, there will be plenty of chatter out there stating the Jazz need to add a third piece to contend. While this isn’t necessarily a wrong take, the need to add a bonafide star might not totally be the case. Ingles is arguably the third-most important piece on the roster – some numbers say he’s even more important than that – but adding another above-average player to complement the Ingles-Gobert-Mitchell trio may just be enough.
Sure, a superstar would be nice, but the Jazz need to be realistic. They aren’t the first (or second, or third, etc.) choice for most free agents. But they can win a championship with the bones they currently have. They just need to fortify their main rotation with even more solid role players. Ingles is a perfect example of what a complementary role player can actually transform into given the right opportunity.
Ingles started his career playing in his home country of Australia, believe it or not, where he earned the NBL Rookie of the Year award. After a few years there, Ingles went on to play professionally in both Spain and Israel.
In 2014, Ingles came to the states to start his career in the NBA. After playing with the Clippers in the preseason, Joe was acquired by the Utah Jazz.
Ingles slowly, but surely worked his way into Utah’s system until eventually becoming a starter.
During his second season with the Jazz, Ingles played 24 minutes per night and shot 44.1 percent from the three-point line, good for fourth in the league. He started about a quarter of the games that season and was an important role player in Utah’s system.
During his early years with Utah, he developed a friendship with former teammate Gordon Hayward. Both players more or less played the same position, so when Hayward departed in free agency to Boston, Ingles was essentially slotted into the starting small forward role.
Ingles inked a new four-year deal just weeks before Hayward decided to leave, thus establishing himself as an important player moving forward. No one could have known just how important Ingles would become to the Jazz success both last season and so far through this season.
In the season directly following Hayward’s departure, Ingles averaged 11.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He did so on a blistering 44 percent from three and an effective field goal percentage of 60.9.
He followed up his first regular season as a starter with a monumental performance in the first round of the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ingles scored 14.2 points per game on 46.7 percent from three and played lockdown defense on Paul George. He led every player in the series with a per-game plus-minus of plus-11.8.
During the same series, Ingles led the team in net rating at 15.7. The Jazz posted an offensive rating of 112.6 while he was on the court and a defensive rating of just 97. For context, only three players posted a higher net rating during the first round and Ingles had the lowest defensive rating out of the top nine.
So far this season, Ingles’ impact is continuing to positively affect the Jazz in a major way. On a team as tough and defensive-minded as the Jazz are, you’d assume Gobert would be the outright leader in defensive rating. This is not the case.
Ingles is actually leading the team in this metric, which is incredible seeing as most do not view Ingles as a defensive specialist. He may not pass the eye test, but his length – combined with top-level defensive instincts – allow him to play lockdown D night-in and night-out.
While Ingles has long been viewed as a three-point expert, his offensive game is actually quite diverse. He’s currently eighth in the league at assist percentage out of all forwards at 23.6 percent. Also as impressive as Ingles ability to create is his innate ability to score without necessarily demanding the ball. He is currently tenth in lowest usage percentage for players averaging more than 11 points a night.
Ingles is currently second on the team in plus-minus, sandwiched between Gobert and Mitchell.
As mentioned previously, Ingles is not the most well-known player. If it was your first time turning into a Jazz game, you might even question how he’s in the NBA (which is an incredibly wrong take, obviously). Joe knows that there are actually naysayers out there and actually addressed them when he was featured on The Woj Pod a few weeks back.
“Let’s be real…I’ve got a receding hairline, I’m slow and I’m probably not the most jacked up with abs and all that, but I’m still going to beat you one-on-one,” said Ingles. He acknowledged the keyboard warriors that challenge him to a game at the local rec center and laughed at the fact that there are people out there who actually think they can take him.
One of the most amusing parts about Ingles’ game is his expertise in the art of trash-talking. He’s never afraid of getting in his opponents’ head or waving to the opposing bench after icing a game-clinching three-pointer.
“I can play the same way and talk to everyone in the arena – coach, other team, the players. It does make me laugh a little bit in my head when it’s happening,” Ingles said to Adrian Wojnarowski. “But some guys just get so rattled by it and then the rest of the game they’re so worried about me or trying to hit me or push me or screen me that it ends up being an advantage for us.”
Ingles went on to say that he doesn’t go into a game with the intention of talking trash to the opposition, but it’s obvious to viewers at home that the man is a natural.
Joe Ingles has proven that he deserves his place in the NBA. Hopefully, at this point, no one refutes that. But more importantly, it is time to recognize that he is absolutely crucial to the success of the Utah Jazz. He is having a somewhat down year in terms of shooting percentage, shooting just 35.7 percent from three and 69.4 percent from the free throw line – both career lows in the NBA. So the fact that those numbers have dropped but his impact to the Jazz wins column continues to grow speaks volumes.
Once his numbers rise back up to their true averages, there will be no surprise when the Jazz – once again – make a deep run in the playoff race.
Ingles has turned into more-or-less a cult figure amongst Jazz Nation. Between his gritty play, quirky off-court personality and killer instinct in crunch time, it is easy to see why. If the Jazz continue to develop their role-players similar to how they developed Ingles, don’t be surprised if another star finds his way on the Jazz roster.
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