Joe Ingles embracing sixth man role with the Jazz
'Slow-Mo Joe' will start his sixth NBA Season in a new position, coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz as their sixth man. But while he might not see starter minutes as in seasons past, expect Ingles to continue his shooting form from previous years as the Jazz seek their first NBA Finals appearance since 1998.
Sixth man = No lost sleep
If the preseason is anything to go by, Ingles will come off the bench in a sixth man role this season. The addition of Bojan Bogdanovic, and the emergence of Royce O’Neal, has allowed coach Snyder the benefit of potentially deploying Ingles directly with the second unit.
"At 32, it’s a new challenge for me, which excites me," shared Ingles when speaking to Tim McMahon of ESPN after a recent preseason outing. "I honestly haven’t sat at home and lost any sleep over starting or not. It doesn’t bother me at all."
The change in role doesn’t drastically differ from Ingles’ role in the past, as last year he was often used as the primary ball handler with the second unit. But being able to come in fresh should allow Ingles to attack tiring starters and focus on exploiting weaker bench units.
After completing their preseason game against Portland, head coach Quin Snyder said as much, confirming that Ingles' role as sixth man would be similar to his role in seasons past.
"Last year we started him, but he came out quickly and then kind of anchored a group on the bench," explained Snyder. "In some way, his role isn’t drastically different than it may appear."
Ingles was a solid contributor to the Boomers' campaign at the FIBA World Cup; however, Ingles will want to regain his shooting consistency. He shot a dismal 26.3% from beyond the arc in China. Ingles had some bad misses on his long range attempts, not displaying the same confidence that has seen him be so successful during his NBA tenure.
Any hopes that the campaign in China was an aberration has so far not been the case, with Ingles’ shooting woes continuing in preseason: he has shot 33.3% from behind the arc––far below his career average of 40.8%.
This is where a sixth man role might improve Ingles' shooting numbers. Decreased starter minutes may reduce Ingles' fatigue, as it might allow him to take on a lesser defensive role––the last two seasons, Ingles has logged many minutes defending the primary wings of opposing teams. The hope is that less fatigue and a drop in offensive usage might improve Ingles’ efficiency––both in his shooting and in reducing his turnover numbers.
The savvy Australian may even find himself in the sixth man of the year conversation. If Utah win 50+ games, and Ingles has similar production to last season, there’s no reason why he can’t be a leading nominee.
Ingles may not be as long a shot for the award as it appears. Lou Williams, the current award holder, and Montrezl Harrell, who came in second in sixth man voting, will now have to share the load with two superstars––Kawhi Leonard and Paul George––while Derrick Rose, who hasn't fully gotten over his injuries, may miss too many games to be considered.
Twilight stages of the career?
Ingles is 32 and not getting any younger. However, Ingles relies on playmaking and shooting, not speed and power, and he could continue to perform in the league for another five years. If his year by year progression is anything to go by, Ingles doesn’t look like he’s slowing down this year or even next; he rarely misses a game due to injury or fatigue.
However, the arrival of Mike Conley, and the return of a healthy Dante Exum, should help Ingles carry less on-ball duties and manage his minutes. Still, despite the Jazz's deep roster this season, Ingles will likely feature down the stretch of games. His Swiss Army knife-like versatility will be crucial in the clutch, providing additional playmaking and spacing for Mitchell and Conley.
Ingles quietly averaged 12.1 points per game and 5.7 assists last season, with 40% from 3. His shooting form may not have returned to these levels just yet, but expect Joe to do his thing when the season begins. The Jazz tip off Thursday against OKC in Salt Lake City.