In a league full of prominent long-range shooters, it would likely surprise many fans that the current leader for three-point percentage was Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz. He’s currently hitting on over 48 percent of his attempts, starting only two of the team's 25 games.
The 6-8 Ingles hails from Australia and is in his third season in the league, having arrived in obscurity. That’s because he had signed with the Los Angeles Clippers at the start of their 2014 training camp. After being released four weeks later, he was claimed on waivers by the Jazz.
Ingles entered the league as a 27-year-old rookie and put up very modest numbers during that first year by averaging five points and two rebounds per game. Despite the limited production, he was given a two-year deal from Utah that was worth $4.5 million.
While Ingles’ numbers haven’t changed much since the pay raise, his accuracy from beyond the three-point line has been boosted 37 percent in the first two years to the aforementioned 48 percent this season.
One of the key reasons that Ingles has been able to maintain that level of accuracy is that he doesn’t come close to putting up as many three-point attempts as players like the Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry and James Harden. In his 25 appearances, he’s only made 62 attempts and connected on 30 of those shots.
That’s good enough to place him ahead of people such as Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert of the Cavaliers and Courtney Lee of the Knicks. Yet Ingles is far from the only three-point threat on the Jazz roster; he’s just the most accurate.
The NBA as a whole has embraced the three-pointer so much that having hired guns on the roster is imperative to achieving success. The fact that both Golden State and Cleveland rely heavily on the three as a weapon and their presence in each of the last two NBA Finals is a strong endorsement of that philosophy.
Not surprisingly, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder has an array of three-point shooters. Three Utah players: Rodney Hood, George Hill and Gordon Hayward are each averaging five three-point attempts each game. In addition, the names of Trey Lyles, Joe Johnson and Dante Exum have also been more prolific than Ingles.
However, because only Hill and Johnson are connecting at a frequency better than 40 percent, the Jazz offense continues to putter along. They’re currently ranked 24th in points per game, with their 15-10 record more a testament to their defensive ability.
For Ingles, he’s eligible for restricted free agency next July. With higher salary caps and a need for quality three-point shooters around the league, some team may be willing to triple or quadruple his salary. It worked for fellow Aussie Matthew Dellavedova, who signed a four-year, $38 million deal with Milwaukee in July that Cleveland chose not to match. Ingles is in the right place at the right time to cash in.