Smoking Joe: Inside Joe Ingles’ career best start to the NBA season

Feb 11, 2018; Portland, OR, USA; Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) shots over Portland Trail Blazers in the second half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

To say Joe Ingles has started the NBA season impressively is one almighty understatement. Ingles hasn’t just commenced his fifth NBA campaign with an almighty flurry; he has put together the best two game stretch of his career.

On opening night in Sacramento, Ingles controlled Utah’s comeback against the plucky Kings. He was their best player, in the most typical of introductory slugfests. Against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night, Ingles set the NBA universe on fire with a performance that still feels like a mirage. Although, we should know better than to claim anything is beyond Ingles at this point.

He was pulling up from 30-feet. He was orchestrating a Jazz routine that pushed the reigning NBA champions to their very limits. And in the most appropriate of NBA acknowledgements, he was trending on Twitter during one of the best regular season games this decade. Deservedly so, too, as his performance was comparable to the MVP calibre opponents who opposed him in Salt Lake City.

Seventy-one minutes of basketball this season have produced 49 points, 10 assists and most remarkably of all, 27 field goal attempts – 17 of which have come from behind the three-point arc. The sheer number of attempts is the most impressive feat. Yes, he is shooting over 70% from the field through two games, but this will inevitably reduce as nobody – not even Ingles holding a flamethrower – can maintain such gaudy shooting.

His aggression, on the other hand, is something that is eminently sustainable. It represents the progression that Utah’s coaching staff wanted to see. Quin Snyder was vocal during the preseason, encouraging Ingles to be more assertive in searching for his offence. Especially his three point shot. The early results are definitive.

 

Ingles, who at 44% was the third best three-point shooter in basketball last season, has traditionally been the finisher of Utah’s offence. Only 15%, or 31 total, of his made three-point field goals last season were unassisted, per NBA.com. In just two games against the Kings and Warriors, Ingles has made six unassisted three-point field goals. If this keeps up, he will match last season’s total before Melbourne Cup day.

 

Steph Curry praised Ingles in the lead up to Friday’s matchup, calling the Australian one of the best shooters in NBA history. Ingles is now starting to imitate the two-time MVP.

Off-the-dribble shooting is the final frontier for NBA marksmanship. Only a handful of shooters, worldwide, are capable of successfully taking a high volume of these attempts. Ingles has shown his shooting talents are among the very best. He is now striving to show off the versatility of his ability.

We are not even through one full week of basketball so drawing any conclusions would represent a fool’s errand. But Ingles’ first week performance should be celebrated for what it is: preliminary evidence that he is taking his offensive game to even greater heights.

Both Sacramento and Golden State learned the hard way that going under on any screen with Ingles, regardless of his proximity to the rim, is a dangerous decision.

 

Even when his shooting splits decline, the fact he is willing to take these long rage attempts will force opposition scouting reports to change. It will place more pressure on the defence, and provide greater spacing for Utah’s army of twitchy ball handlers. It will also help Ingles’ inside game.

The Australian has been a willing driver throughout his time in the NBA, although there has often been a focus on setting up his big men. The sight of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors collecting Ingles’ lofted passes has become all too common. These skills are as omnipresent as ever, and they have been complemented with more of Ingles’ driving to score.

 

Through two games, Ingles has doubled his number of attempts from inside the arc. The obvious caveats of an insignificant sample size apply, yet this is a further illustration of how impressive Ingles has been. All over the court, he is leveraging the instinctual talents that got him into the NBA, and combining a level of aggression into a lethal offensive cocktail.

 

The NBA season will level out, and Ingles’ performance will drop somewhat as the basketball grind kicks in. But the next progression in his game has been witnessed in regular season games proper.

Ingles’ performance this week has been the very best of his career. It forebodes what every Jazz fan hopes will be another entertaining year in Utah.

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