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Starter Joe: Conley's absence provided opportunity Ingles needed to rise once more
The 2019/20 season hasn't been smooth sailing for Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles.
Forced into a bench role by the acquisition of Bojan Bogdanović and the rise of Royce O'Neale, the Australian has seen his numbers dip this season. In particular, his scoring average has fallen from 12.1 to 8.3 points per game. While one would expect Ingles' counting stats to drop in a sixth man role, his sub-par shooting percentages have been unexpected.
Despite being a career 40% three-point shooter, the 6'7 forward hit just 28% of his shots from downtown in November. However, Ingles' slump hasn't arisen out of nowhere. He made just 8 of 29 three-point attempts in Utah's first round playoff loss to Houston last year. The Adelaide native then went ice-cold in the FIBA World Cup, shooting 1/15 from deep in the knockout games.
On a more positive note however, a recent injury to Mike Conley has opened the door for Ingles. In his point guard's absence, Ingles is averaging 32 minutes per game - a slight bump from his season average 28. Furthermore, the Australian swingman is averaging 12.2 points and 7.2 assists over this span. Ingles has even rediscovered his shooting touch, hitting 43% of his three-pointers across the last five games.
The reinstated starter had his best game of the season against Minnesota on 11 December, with a season-high 23 point performance on 64% shooting, along with five rebounds and five assists.
On the defensive end this season, Ingles has produced mixed results. He holds his assignment to just 26% shooting from three-point range on average, a show of elite perimeter defence. However, Ingles is vulnerable inside ten feet, where opponents shoot 70% against him.
Only time will tell whether Ingles can retain his place in the starting lineup. Conley's return is imminent, but the veteran point guard has been underwhelming this season.
Ingles most likely hasn't forced his way into being a starter yet, but he is trending in the right direction. With the Tokyo Olympics approaching, Ingles' form will be a major factor in the Boomers' results. The 32 year old forward is virtually a guaranteed starter, and hopefully continues his resurgence ahead of a Boomers medal push.