Back before the season started, but after training camp, the Utah Jazz quickly dropped Carrick Felix, an athletic wing player that for whatever potential he had -- it was currently untapped. Felix was acquired in a July trade that sent Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy and John Lucas III to the Cavaliers. He would then have an injury abbreviated season in the NBADL. That's a crappy turn of events for the 2nd round Sophomore. Then Utah picked up Jordan Hamilton off of waivers, and dropped him too. One guy that the Jazz did stick with from that frantic period was Joe Ingles.
Initially viewed as a surrogate Australian for Brock Motum, who wasn't good enough to make the NBA, information about Joe started to come in. He was cut by the Clippers after their training camp, but the 27 year old has been playing professional ball for years before this season started. With no college ball to his name, or NBADL experience many domestic fans didn't know what Joe was all about. I count myself as one of them. And I immediately cared about a wing rotation of Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood, and Dante Exum seeing at least 6 mpg at the two guard spot.
Injuries took Alec, Karma for dumping Felix? I don't know. And a long list of players auditioned for a role on the Jazz wing (Patrick Christopher, Elliot Williams, Toure' Murry, but Chris Johnson and Elijah Millsap fought hard and are still here). One guy who benefited from Alec and Rodney going down was Joe Ingles. I wasn't jumping for joy at this prospect. But I'm okay with Joe playing his way into my heart, as he did.
Immediately you saw a scruffy looking guy who hustled. Within our offense another ball handler was always appreciated, and he had the skills -- often when paired on the floor with Dante it was Joe handling the ball. Odd. But he immediately distinguished himself for his motor and his hustle. He dived on the floor, he caused deflections or picked off long passes (good basketball IQ), he tried to save the ball. He had the under-rated ability to be just outside of a rebounding scrum and be able to get a hand (or two) on a loose ball. He reminded me of an Adam Keefe with a jumper.
But it was that jumper that was the problem. Often there are professional players who just can't shoot at the professional level, and thus languish in minor leagues around the world. Ingles didn't appear confident about his jumper and broke countless plays by passing up the open shot to then perform an upfake followed by a drive and dish into a crowded paint with the seconds ticking off the shot clock. If you watch Ingles play in the first few months of this season you'll see this over and over again. He had all the fixins for a solid NBA player, but his meat and potatoes left something to be desire.
In today's game all players worth their salt who play on the wing have to be able to take, and make, that three. (Heck, even much-maligned by the Jazz' own people, Alec Burks, was shooting 38% from outside this year.) Joe needed to take and make those threes.
And eventually he did. This is his breakdown over the season, month-by-month. He is absolutely on fire right now.
And like the Mehmet Okur theorem, you get really hot from outside by first taking a bunch of two-pointers. This is what we're seeing as a lower percentage of all of his FGA are 3PTA when compared to the first part of the season. The other issue here is the TYPE of threes he is taking more of. Joe used to pass up the open threes, and the threes he would take were out of rhythm shots that were contested. Right now Joe is taking those open threes (great), but even better is that he is on such a roll right now that he's taking threes off the bounce in rhythm. This is the ultimate confidence shot, and he and Rodney Hood are both making that right now.
His April numbers are off the charts, and his percentages actually reveal that even though he's 27 and a solid pro of the international game, he's still an NBA rookie. And NBA Rookies need to find their footing too (and most of our rookies get better as the season progresses). While there can only be some regression towards the mean as the season finishes it's nice to see Joe be fearless with his shot taking from deep. As the self-proclaimed "best three point shooter" in the NBA he is proving it right now. And when you add this type of shotmaking ability to his obvious charm (which is overflowing), and whatever off the court affinity he has with his fan Dante Exum, it's a great fit for this Jazz team.
Scruffy looking hustle guy? Fine, all teams need that. Solid defender who facilitates the offense as a point forward, that's a rarer find in the NBA, especially for guys who can start or come off the bench. Someone who is shooting like Peja Stojakovic, that you found by looking at the waiver wire? Brilliant.
The more overt thing is that the threes he takes and makes are when the Jazz are trying to win the game, during our 2nd half pushes. In this case he's making 40% of them.
I love that. Our opponents do not.
Furthermore, in wins Joe is shooting 47.1% from deep, and in losses only 26.2%. He's kinda a big deal, it seems.
In a perfect world the Jazz wouldn't have needed to give long looks at so many wings this season. Injuries to Alec Burks and Rodney Hood allowed for opportunities for others. Elijah Millsap and Joe Ingles both took advantage of it, as the two 27 year old NBA Rookies worked their way up to the NBA level. Both are amazing stories, stories that we wouldn't have gotten a chance to see if this was a perfect world. Ultimately, the imperfection of this world, the inability for our best case scenarios to play out, has gifted us a few gems. And few players are shining as brilliantly right now as Joe Ingles is. The only question that remains is "How much will the Jazz have to pay him in order to keep him?"
Thanks for never giving up, and for making me a fan!
Also, don't forget to sign up for FanDuel, SB Nation's official fantasy sports partner. Here's the link. Utah has been up and down the last few weeks, but a few of our guys are solid performers every night. It's so easy, you should be making some money playing fantasy basketball!