Welcome back for the final instalment of our Aussies in NBA: 2016-17 Season Wish List. Part one covered Andrew Bogut and Dante Exum, part two looked at Aron Baynes, part three explored what to look for with Patty Mills and part four previewed what to expect from Matthew Dellavedova with his new team. Today we turn our attention to Jinglin' Joe.
2016-17 wish list: (i) maintained three point shooting, and (ii) early season minutes and victories for the Utah Jazz
Joe Ingles is the most interesting man in Australian basketball. But he is also the Australian with the highest risk of losing his role in the NBA.
Since Ingles arrived in Utah to start the 2014-15 season, the Jazz have been snake bitten with injuries. Whilst unfortunate for the franchise, it has given Ingles the chance to forge an impressive NBA resume. He has played in 160 out of 164 total games over the past 24 months, quickly becoming a jack-of-all-trades for the Jazz.
While Ingles is no elite NBA prospect at this stage of his career, there are very little weaknesses in his game. I mean, give me a forward who can facilitate like this any day.
Yet for all his improvements, Ingles saw his minutes decrease last year, and this figures to be an even bigger issue in 2016-17. Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward all occupy minutes on the wing for Utah. With this triumvirate finally looking healthy, Ingles will almost assuredly start the season on the fringes.
That’s all true even before you factor in the recent acquisitions of Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson. Personally, I think Diaw is done as a valuable NBA player, so I don’t expect he will prove problematic for Ingles. Johnson’s arrival on the other hand, this is clearly perceived to be an upgrade over Ingles within mainstream NBA circles. The two have a comparable output over the past 12 months, but Johnson comes to Utah with the reputation of a big time player. The history of the NBA has shown that this counts for something. Not that it’s necessarily right, it’s just the way things are.
The Jazz roster is stacked, and it will prove impossible for Quin Snyder to allocate the 240 minutes of game time while keeping everyone happy. Salt City Hoops undertook that exercise here and here, and I agree with their assessment - somebody will be left unhappy as they ride the bench.
Ingles is the type of guy that will always have a spot on an NBA roster available to him, whether that translates into regular playing time is another question. His ultimate NBA destiny is likely someone who can contribute when called upon, yet has no guaranteed playing time night in and night out. It's akin to what Nick Collision has become with Oklahoma City; as someone who intently followed the rise of the Thunder, the similarities are striking.
So, what’s on Ingles’ wish list this year? Two things for me. One measureable, and one intangible. First, the basketball science.
Three-point shooting will be a key reason why Ingles receives NBA minutes. He managed to raise his percentage on the long ball to almost 39% last season, shooting almost 50% on corner threes according to Basketball Reference. As we mentioned when discussing Aron Baynes’ place in Detroit, shooting will cure all. If Ingles can maintain these gaudy long-range numbers, he will be impossible to overlook.
While Ingles experienced slight drop offs in some key statistical indicators during his sophomore campaign, it’s clear he developed into a more effective NBA player. Want another example of his improved passing? I’ve got you covered.
Herein lies the point with Ingles: stats will never define his role and impact in the Association. The overused cliché about Australian basketball players being team first, glue guys actually applies to Ingles. He isn’t an explosive athlete nor is he an NBA superstar, rather a valuable cog to an NBA rotation who understands the nuances of a reserve role. Or to borrow a term used in AFL parlance, he is someone who understands, and then does all the ‘one-percenters’.
Wishing for Ingles to put up flashy stat lines isn’t realistic, or relevant for that matter. He needs something more intangible. The idea we raised above about Ingles being a jack-of-all-trades can be fraught with danger. The obvious counter is that he is Aziz Ansari, the master of nothing. With that in mind, Ingles must differentiate himself.
If Ingles can start the season in Snyder’s rotation, and the Jazz enjoy a successful November, he can start to differentiate himself as role player who contributes to a winning team. For the record, I flat out hate the ‘he’s a winner’ sentiment, but it’s an oft-overused crutch in the NBA.
To borrow another Oklahoma City circa 2011 reference, think about what Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins accomplished in the confines of a budding contender. Snyder is a more progressive coach than Scott Brooks, no doubt about it. But NBA coaches are often seduced by smart veterans who don’t take anything off the table.
Joe Ingles is going to have an important NBA moment, I’m ready to guarantee that much. It might just take a little more time. One final thought before we wrap up, could Ingles have done 90% of what Richard Jefferson did for Cleveland in the NBA Finals? Just throwing it out there.
So that's the end of our Aussies in NBA: 2016-17 Season Wish List. Here is a recap of what I am wishing for this season.
Andrew Bogut: (i) 1,680 minutes played, and (ii) fulfil Rick Carlisle’s prophesy
Dante Exum: (i) offensive assertiveness, and (ii) shoot 35.4% from the three point line
Aron Baynes: (i) improved offensive polish, and (ii) more free throw issues for Andre Drummond
Patty Mills: (i) more minutes with the San Antonio starters, and (ii) improved ability to run an offence
Matthew Dellavedova: (i) maintain improved efficiency, and (ii) find a new Tristan Thompson
As for my personal wish list? Just give me NBA basketball and I'm happy. What's on your wish list for the upcoming season?