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Joe Ingles and fine wine; you get the idea

Joe Ingles must be connoisseur of all things that better with age as he puts together the best season of his career at age 33

Utah Jazz v Toronto Raptors
Joe Ingles’ career year at age 33 is a testament to just how great the Aussie will go down in the annals of basketball lore
Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

There are two types of people—those who know wine and those who think they know wine. Most of us are the latter and almost all the rest couldn’t care less.

Whether or not you consider yourself a wine connoisseur, we all know fine wine gets better with age—and Jazz fans know a bit about that subject.

In their mid 30’s, John Stockton and Karl Malone led the Utah Jazz to back-to-back Finals appearances. “The Statues” rounded into the best version of themselves just when conventional thinking pegged them to slow down.

Joe Ingles is asking everyone to hold his beer...err, wine.

At age 33, Joe Ingles, “Headband Joe”, “Jinglin’ Joe”, “Slow-mo Joe”, “The Dad Bod God”, is having the best season of his career, one of the most unique campaigns in franchise history. In fact, he’s well on his way to an “all-time great” efficiency season.

Most use “all-time great” with a heavy dose of hyperbole. Not this time. Just look below at how Joe Ingles’ True Shooting % this season measures up with the greatest seasons of all time by the league’s greatest players:

What Joe is doing this season is mind-boggling. For 6.5 seasons we’ve enjoyed 3’s from “Happy Valley”, ball fakes in the Pick-and-Roll, and trash talk to the league’s elite. We forget the journey he took to achieve all this.

Let’s take a short trip down memory lane and appreciate the rise of Joseph Howarth Ingles.

“An Unexpected Journey”

Much like Bilbo Baggins knew not what he was in for or how he’d come about the adventures written by J.R.R. Tolkien, the young Joe Ingles likely had a very different idea of how his professional basketball career would turn out.

In 2006, a 19 year old, athletic, and shaggy Joe burst onto the Australian basketball scene with his play for the Melbourne South Dragons NBL team. His play landed him on the national team where he’d represent the Boomers in his first Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.

Joe would then declare for the NBA draft, withdraw, and fall undrafted in 2009. Despite workouts, encouraging feedback, and solid experience in the NBL and Olympics, the NBA dream would remain just that for the moment.

He continued a stellar international career with CB Granada (Spain), FC Barcelona (Spain), and Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel). He was a member of two FIBA World Championship teams in 2010 and 2014.

Joe Ingles rises for a fade-away while playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv
Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images

Up to this point, Ingles international play landed him numerous honors, including NBL Rookie of the Year, 2x NBL All-Star, and 2x International Player of the Year (Gaze Medal). But Joe’s desire to play in the NBA was still burning.

Despite all the international accolades and what would have been an extremely safe, steady career, Ingles took a chance on his NBA dream chasing the last roster spot for the LA Clippers.

On the final day of training camp, Joe Ingles was cut by the Clippers while his wife Renae was flying to LA with plans to celebrate his NBA accomplishment.

Joe Ingles
Joe Ingles media day for the LA Clippers in 2014
Sporting News

After bearing the bad news to Renae, their disappointment was short lived when a call from Joe’s agent informed him he’d been picked up off waivers and would join the Utah Jazz for the season.

The rest is a long, storied run with the Utah Jazz that’s only gotten better with every passing season.

Smashing Franchise Records

Speaking of every passing season, in this Joe’s 7th NBA campaign, he’s passing a lot of folks in Jazz history.

Earlier this season, Joe Ingles passed John Stockton for the Jazz all-time made 3-pointers. With 910 made 3’s ahead of a bout with the Chicago Bulls Monday night, Joe has an excellent chance to crack 1,000 made 3’s this season and hundreds more in years to come.

Joe’s 3P shooting has been a trademark throughout his career, but he’s ascending to new heights of late.

Last weekend in a loss to the Washington Wizards, Ingles tied the Jazz single-game record for made 3-pointers with 8 bombs. Enjoy, yet again, the beautiful display:

Joe ranks 2nd in the NBA in 3P% behind Atlanta’s Tony Snell...who has 128 fewer attempts. Take a look below at how Joe’s 3P% compared to average every season of his career (0% is league average):

Joe Ingles Adjusted Efficiency from 3P
Adjusted efficiency from 3P - Joe Ingles Career
Stats via; Adam Bushman, SLC Dunk

In case the chart is difficult to read, Ingles has always been an above average sniper from deep and is shooting nearly 12% above average this season, a career best mark. Mind, blown.

Shooting isn’t the only thing he’s good at, nor is it the only leaderboard he’s climbing.

Joe Ingles is just 22 assists away from passing Andrei Kirilenko and joining the top 5 Jazzmen in total career assists. With Joe’s season average of 4.3, he should officially pass Kirilenko in matchups with the Cleveland Cavaliers or Memphis Grizzlies at the end of March.

Few things feel as right as seeing Joe Ingles’ name in the records books for the Utah Jazz.

Personal Bests

This season for Joe is much more than breaking records, he’s hitting personal bests!

Since Joe’s minutes per game have fluctuated depending on his role as a starter or as reserve, we’ll look at some of his numbers adjusted to playing 36 min per game.

Utah Jazz v Washington Wizards
Joe Ingles reminds Donovan Mitchell who’s #1 (actually, he’s probably just communicating with Coach Quin)
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Per 36 minutes, Joe is averaging 16.4 points per game, 2.5 points more than any other season, NBA or international. He only scored more per 36 min during his first Olympic games in 2008 where he averaged 9.4 minutes per game.

His turnover rate (TOV%) is also the lowest of his career at 15.4, despite his assist rate (AST%) being the 3rd highest of his career.

BBall Index is a site that does tremendous things with the NBA’s tracking data, specifically in turning such data into player grades in various talent areas. Check out the below graphic comparing rookie Joe Ingles to 7th year veteran Joe Ingles:

Joe Ingles
Rookie Joe Ingles vs 7th year veteran Joe Ingles in talent grades
Stats via BBall Index

As you might expect, 7th year veteran Ingles is MUCH improved. But you probably didn’t expect him to be better in every category but one. Rookie Joe’s edge in “Roll Gravity” is simply due to him sometimes operating as a screener/diver whereas today he operates more exclusively in the pick-and-roll as the ball handler.

The evolution a 27 year old NBA rookie underwent to transform himself from an undrafted, international star to one of the best role players on the NBA’s best record team is a testament to the Jazz and to Joe.

Sixth Man of the Year?

Most have written off Jordan Clarkson as the NBA’s 2021 6MOY lock. In fact, Sports Betting Dime has Clarkson at a -1000 to lead the way, with Eric Gordon in 2nd place at +1600. Clarkson is literally more likely to take home the hardware than the field! That’s wild.

While the oddsmakers have all but inscribed his name on the award, we needn’t look much further than Joe Ingles for some real competition (Joe’s odds are at +10000).

Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz
Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson may have a silent 6MOY battle, but they’re definitely the most lethal reserve combo in the NBA
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Jazz fan McCade Pearson (@McCadeP8 on Twitter) has long been championing the “Ingles for 6MOY” bandwagon:

So, how do they compare? Let’s Look at their raw, per 36 min stat lines:

Joe Ingles: 16.4 pts, 4.7 rbs, 5.8 ast, 2.0 tov, 71.3% eFG

Jordan Clarkson: 24.5 pts, 5.4 rbs, 3.1 ast, 2.5 tov, 54.1% eFG

Off the bat, it’s easy to see why Clarkson is the favorite—he scores in volume and efficiency. For the NBA, scoring is king. To Jordan’s credit, he is having a career high in rebounds, 3PA’s, and FT%. Joe, on the other end, has Clarkson in assists and overall efficiency.

But raw, per 36 min stat lines are soooo last decade. With as many tools available to us for understanding a player’s real value, why limit our analysis to basic numbers even if the oddsmakers and award panelists do?

Let’s turn again to BBall Index and compare 2020-21 Ingles and Clarkson:

Joe Ingles vs Jordan Clarkson
Joe Ingles vs Jordan Clarkson in BBall Index talent grades
Stats via BBall Index

While Clarkson has the edge in a lot of the sexy categories like “One on One” and “Post Play”, Ingles has the edge in a lot of the things the Jazz want to do 90% of the time, like “Perimeter Shooting” and “Playmaking”.

We all know Clarkson will get the hardware, but Ingles has a much more well-rounded, positive impact driven case for the award than Jordan. Ultimately, it’ll end in the hands of a Jazzman, as it should.

Prior to the 2019-20 season kicking off, the Utah Jazz extended Joe Ingles a 1 yr/$14M contract. At that point, Joe was coming off arguably his best season. At first glance, it seemed appropriate.

The Jazz FO deemed Joe as an integral part to the Jazz culture and community. They also believed him to be a perfect complementary piece to the overhauled roster in the offseason (bringing in Conley and Bogdanovic). All those perspectives were absolutely true.

However, the extension came two years prior to Joe’s free agency, and was an extension for Joe’s age 34 season. From a risk-reward standpoint, the Jazz were flirting pretty heavily with the risk end of the spectrum.

Utah Jazz v Philadelphia 76ers
Joe Ingles’ smile should be gracing the floor, bench, color commentator’s seat, etc., for as many years as we can get him.
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

As we near the close to the 2020-21 season (next year the extension kicks in), hindsight clears things up for us.

A sizeable dip in production last season followed by his best career campaign certainly validates the concerns some had over the risky nature of the extension.

Would Joe have left? Would he have gotten $14M+ or anything close to it? The likely answer is no. But it’s not guaranteed and there may very well have been indications of many suitors looking to line up at his door in the 2021 offseason.

As risky as the move was at the time, as difficult as our books will certainly be going forward, if this season has told us anything, it’s that Joe Ingles should be a Jazzman for life.

Utah needn’t fret about Joe’s free agency this summer coming off a career year thanks to locking him up in 2019. After all, both Utah and Ingles were there for each other when they needed the other most.

Come to think of it, I guess that’s how some feel about wine.