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Maybe Joe Ingles should start for the Utah Jazz?

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Regardless of the health of Rodney Hood and Alec Burks

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Ingles has quietly become one of the NBA’s best 3-and-D wing players. He is currently 3rd in the NBA at 44% from three point range, and is tied for 9th in STL%, at 2.8%. He’s the only player to crack the top 20 in both categories, and he’s ranked top 10 in both. He’s also currently ranked 13th in the NBA in individual DRtg, at 103.3. Only 4 wings are ranked higher - Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Allen, and Thabo Sefolosha.

Using basketball-reference.com, I searched for players in the current season with a 3pt% of at least 35%, DBPM of 0 or better, USG% under 19, and at least 1 defensive win share. 7 players show up on that list - Otto Porter, Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Joe Ingles, Vince Carter, Danny Green, and Iman Shumpert. Among this group, Ingles is 1st in STL%, 1st in DRtg, 2nd in AST%, 2nd in TS%, 2nd in DBPM, 2nd in WS/48, 2nd in BPM, 2nd in OBPM, 2nd in Net rating, 3rd in FTr, 3rd in 3PAr, 3rd in ORtg, and 3rd in VORP. That is borderline silly, that an undrafted player with his seeming athletic deficiencies can be so productive. (I will say this: Ingles does have a slight turnover problem - it’s the highest among this group, and one of only three players with a TOV% higher than his AST%).

Why do I think Ingles should start over Rodney Hood for the rest of the season? It’s pretty simple. Our best players perform better when he’s on the court with them. I compared the on/off numbers using NBAwowy.com, examining how certain players on the court and on the bench influenced the play of the Jazz. The first thing I noticed is that Hayward is much better with Ingles on the court and Hood on the bench (sample size of 580 minutes, 1110 possessions). With Ingles on and Hood off, Hayward’s USG% increases from 27.6 to 30.9, and he actually sees a spike in his efficiency. His TS% jumps from .608 to a whopping .629. On the season, roughly 53% of his field goals have been assisted. Joe Ingles makes Hayward’s life easier, as Hayward’s Ast% increases to 57% - and this entire spike occurs on 2pt field goals (3pt attempts maintain at 75% assisted for Gordon). Not having studied film, I have to assume that most of these easier buckets are coming off backdoor cuts or that beautiful lob play the Jazz run a couple times a game.

Hayward and Ingles have great chemistry together. The aforementioned lob play requires near-perfect communication, timing, and accuracy on the pass. In addition to that play, Hayward and Ingles have each assisted each other on 10 threes while they share the court sans Hood. Ingles’ defensive pressure also increases when he shares the floor with Hayward. His steals/100 possessions increase from 2.8 to 3.3. Hayward’s numbers across the board increase next to Ingles. His TRB% increases (9.6 to 10.8), his TOV% decreases a TON (10.1 to 7.6), his AST% jumps from 18.3 to 22.2, and his FG% inside 3 feet goes from 69.2% to 77.6%.

Hayward isn’t the only one who benefits from Joe’s presence. On the season, the Jazz are shooting 36.4% from 3 as a team. With Ingles+Hayward on and Hood off, the Jazz 3pt% improves to 39.4%, which would be good for 2nd in the NBA right now (the Jazz are currently 11th). The team’s 2pt% jumps from 51.6% to 55.8%. 60% of the team’s total field goals and 82% of the team’s 3pt field goals are assisted with Ingles+Hayward on, Hood off.

Rudy Gobert also greatly benefits from Ingles. With Gobert+Ingles on, Hood off (605 minutes, 1152 possessions), Gobert’s TS% is a ridiculous 70.1%. His FG% is 71.4%, even though there’s a slight increase in usage. Gobert’s defensive impact increases, as well. His block rate increases slightly. His defensive rebounding rate jumps from 28.7 to 31.1.

Now, I don’t say all this because I don’t like Rodney Hood. On the contrary. Not only are Ingles, Hayward, and Gobert all better when Hood is on the bench, but Hood is better when he’s on the floor without Hayward (443 minutes, 820 possessions). Hood sees increases in usage (23.2 to 28.4), TS% (52.8 to 57.9), FG% (42 to 47.5), 3pt% (36.6 to 41.5), and TRB% (7.3 to 8.2). Hood becomes a much more efficient scorer and basketball player, despite an increase in usage rate.

I don’t know if it’s because of matchups, or if Hood doesn’t like playing 2nd fiddle when Hayward is on the court. But based on the numbers, it appears that Hood is at his best when he’s the clear #1 scoring option on the floor, and both Hayward and Gobert are at their best when they play next to Joe Ingles AND Hood is off the court. Ingles’ presence seems to make life substantially easier for Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert, and he plays sneaky-good defense as a low-usage player with great efficiency.

Coach Q, if you’re reading this... start Ingles at shooting guard for the rest of the season and the entire playoffs. Bring Hood off the bench to destroy bench units with Alec Burks.

Oh, and sign Joe Ingles for life.