Last season, at 33 years old, Joe Ingles had a career year. He was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, averaging 12.1 points and 4.7 assists per game, all while shooting 45.1% from downtown. He was, in every way, phenomenal. However, 12 games through the 2021-22 season, Joe Ingles has looked like a different player. He’s seemed complacent, uninterested, tired, and out of shape. After playing so well only a few months ago, how is this possible?
Well, it’s a combination of multiple factors. Here, we are going to have an honest conversation about Joe Ingles, what's effected his play so significantly, and what his role should look like on the Utah Jazz, moving forward:
Why has Ingles played so poorly?
Before we talk about Ingles’ poor play, I want to say this: Ingles isn’t “washed” as a player. I find it nearly impossible that after having a career season, Ingles’ production would fall off a cliff so quickly.
Still, Ingles is having a down year in nearly every major statistical category. He’s only averaging 7.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists a game. If the season were to end today, it would be his worst stat-line since the 2016-17 season. Even so, I don’t think that’s Ingles’ biggest issue; after all, statistical regression should be expected at the age of 34. What’s far more concerning is the way Ingles has appeared on the court. To put it bluntly, he's often looked like a walking corpse.
This, in all likelihood, is due to him already being tired. It’s been said a plethora of times throughout the start of this season, but Ingles’ participation in the Olympics this past summer is likely to blame for this. Not having a whole off-season to get his body right has clearly had rippling effects on his performance to start out the season. With that said, I don’t think Ingles is blameless here; he’s just looked out of shape. Ingles doesn’t look like he has the stamina to run in transition, he consistently takes plays off on offense, and oftentimes has no interest in playing anything that resembles perimeter defense.
Is it understandable that at his age, an off-season with minimal recovery could have an effect on his play? Absolutely. Is it understandable that in about half the games he’s played this season, he’s left nearly zero impact? I’m not so sure. So, where does that leave Ingles?
Ingles’ role, moving forward
I don’t think that is any need to make a rash decision with Ingles’ role on the Jazz, at least not yet. The season is still very young and plenty of things can (and will) change before the playoffs. However, that’s not to say that there aren't adjustments that can be made right now to help Ingles return to his former self.
The biggest adjustment (and one I’ve been advocating for since the beginning of the season) is lowering Ingles’ minutes. Currently, he’s playing 25.2 minutes per game and I firmly believe that there is no reason why he should play more than 20 minutes per night. There are too many players (Eric Paschall, Jared Butler, Miye Oni) who could fill in those minutes moving forward. At this point, the production Ingles is providing in his extra minutes aren’t helping the Jazz. Those minutes would be better served if they went towards developing younger players and would give Ingles the opportunity to rest more.
To put it into perspective, giving Ingles 5 less minutes of play time every night for the rest of the season would provide him with an extra 364 minutes of rest. That is essentially 8 less games worth of minutes for Ingles, something that I’m sure he and his body would appreciate. At this point, I just don’t understand why this change hasn’t been made. If the Jazz keep playing Ingles they way they have, they'll reach the playoffs with a version of him that won't contribute to winning. After all, isn’t this supposed to be the year the Jazz make a real run at the title? Why not then take the initiative now to ensure the team looks its best in May? I’ve got a lot of faith in Ingles returning to a better version of himself, but if no changes are made, that faith will begin to waver.