At 33 years old, Joe Ingles arguably played his best season of NBA basketball. At times throughout the year, Ingles looked like he could be a starting point-guard in the league with his “floor general” skillset. His combination of efficiency, playmaking, and solid defense was amazing. On top of that, just take a look at a few of the career highs he posted:
- Points Per Game- 12.1
- Field Goal Percentage- 48.9%
- Three Point Percentage- 45.1%
- Effective Field Goal Percentage- 65.2%
- Free Throw Percentage- 84.4%
- Player Efficiency Rating- 15.1
- Turnover Percentage- 16.3%
- Win Shares Per 48- .180
But with that said, in the playoffs, Ingles struggled to make an impact. He made silly mistakes, played a step behind, and seemed relatively disengaged. Can that be chalked up to variance and tired legs? Maybe. It doesn’t help that he’ll be turning 34 soon and just played a summer filled with Olympic basketball, limiting his rest this offseason.
So, what should we expect? Here are some thoughts:
Rest and Regression
For Ingles, the relationship between these two words will dictate how his season goes. Essentially, if Ingles doesn’t receive more rest than he did last year, he will hit a wall prematurely and “regress.” He averaged about 28 minutes per game last year, which isn’t too bad, but is probably still too much for him. You have to keep in mind that since he was a teenager, Ingles has been playing basketball either professionally or nationally. He’s got a ton of miles on him. With the assumption that Utah’s second round draft pick Jared Butler can run some back up point guard minutes, I’m hoping that Quin Snyder cuts Ingles minutes to somewhere between 20-25 a game. This would go a long way in keeping him fresh for the playoffs.
Obviously, with a cut in minutes, Ingles per-game production will suffer. At this stage of his career, I think that’s a trade off you have to take and it’s one that he’d probably be happy with. The other option is that you have Ingles play a similar amount of minutes per game again, but have him rest games more often. I find the former more likely.
A Small Dip in Defensive Production
Contrary to what the eye test sometimes showed, Ingles was actually a pretty solid defender last season. He had an overall positive DBPM, D-RAPTOR, and D-EPM. Some of that can obviously be attributed to him sharing the floor with Rudy Gobert, but it shows that he’s still a plus defender. I think he’s lost the speed to stay in front of primary ball-handlers all game, but he still has the capability to hold his own on a switch.
I would be shocked if he somehow became a negative defender in the span of an offseason. I do, however, think it’s safe to say that he will start to edge closer to becoming an average defender. Just based off of his size and basketball IQ alone, I think Ingles will always have the capability to be a solid defender for stretches. Those stretches are just getting smaller.
More Shooting, Less Playmaking
Being a primary ball-handler takes a lot of work. When Mike Conley went down with his hamstring injury, Ingles’ usage rating skyrocketed, contributing to his burn out at the end of the season. I would be surprised if the Jazz didn’t take serious note of this.
While Ingles’ best attribute is his ability to playmake, I think the Jazz are going to reel back how much they rely upon him. They will probably use him as a ball-handler situationally, depending on matchups, game flow, etc. Because of that, he’ll probably spend more time as a spot up shooter. This, again, would be in the effort to reduce his load and keep him fresh for the playoffs.
With how well he shot last season, having Ingles shoot a higher volume of catch and shoot jumpers could honestly be a great thing. It’s part of the reason why I’m less worried about Ingles “regressing”, rather, I’m worried that another year of poor health at the guard position could lead to Ingles emptying his gas tank too early.
With all that said, I think Ingles will still be integral to the success of the Jazz next year. A minimized role throughout the regular season should be expected, but it should also help him immensely in the post-season.
All statistics from basketball-reference.com