Utah Jazz: Should Joe Ingles take Over As Permanent Starter?

Jan 26, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. (7) and Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) both reacts in the fourth quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Utah Jazz won 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 26, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. (7) and Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles (2) both reacts in the fourth quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Utah Jazz won 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

With Rodney Hood finally preparing to return to the court, should the Utah Jazz reconsider their starting lineup in preparation for the playoffs?

One of the more common themes from this season has been “how will the Utah Jazz navigate injuries and depth?”. With every preseason starter losing time due to injury with the exception of Rudy Gobert, its been a miracle that Quin Snyder and company have been able to weather the storm. In spite of that, the Jazz currently sit in 5th place in the West but more impressively have the 5th best point differential in the league.

But now the real questions start. With the team enjoying relative health, who ends up on the court together? What groups make the most sense and create the most space?

One of the hidden benefits to the injuries to George Hill, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and even Gordon Hayward was that Joe Ingles was given a lot more minutes than was planned in the preseason. Ingles, as an undrafted free agent picked up by Utah after he was cut by the LA Clippers, stuck on the roster because of his unselfishness and basketball IQ.

As a 27-year-old rookie, there wasn’t ever much expected from Ingles. Gaining nicknames from Matt Harpring such as Slo-mo Joe isn’t something an aspiring NBA player should want attached to himself. But Ingles has only ever been a good soldier, always doing what’s best for the team.

In the video above, note the Spurs announcers commentating “with surprise” that Ingles scores. My point is that because he’s old, he doesn’t get the attention of a younger prospect making the same strides in his game.

This season, the growth in his game has been incredible. At one point Ingles was the most accurate 3-point shooter in the game and is currently third. Not many players go from shooting 38.6% as a 28-year-old to shooting 44% the very next year. Snyder has even gone on record saying Ingles needs to shoot more, that at times he needs to be more selfish.

But you get it, Joe Ingles has been very good filling in for injured wings all year.

Today Bleacher Report posted an article by Josh Martin ranking every team’s presumed starting lineup following the trade deadline. While I originally thought about arguing about Utah being ranked 17th, (I mean really, he put the Bucks without Jabari Parker ahead of the Jazz…) but the following caught my attention:

"The only change to the Utah Jazz’s starting lineup will come when Rodney Hood recovers from a bone contusion and sprain in his right knee.Not that the Jazz have set the landscape ablaze with Hood at shooting guard. According to NBA.com, they’ve been outscored by 4.7 points per 100 possessions with the above arrangement but have obliterated the opposition by 22.2 points per 100 possessions when Joe Ingles gets the call.Perhaps Quin Snyder will take it as a sign that he should keep the sharpshooting Australian out there to stretch the floor (43.9 percent from three) for a slasher like All-Star Gordon Hayward and the paint-packing pair of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert.If not, it’s tough to put Utah anywhere near the top 10 on this list unless the stats start to tell a different story once Hood returns."

No one will ever argue that Hood isn’t a great prospect. Or even that he isn’t already a solid NBA player who is averaging 14 points per game as a 24-year-old. He’s a decent defender for his experience and will only get better with age.

However Ingles has morphed into arguably the best perimeter defender on the roster. He’s the guy that Snyder picks to guard LeBron James and he did about as good as anyone can when asked to guard the best player alive. He can also pick up quick guards to close out games on the road.

Ingles can do everything well, and even has an elite skill with his spot up threes. Its hard to ignore a number like 26.9 points per 100 possessions with Ingles in the starting lineup in place of Hood. Ingles has been much more consistent this season, and is a better passer. Hood is a decent 3-point shooter, but no one is leaving a 44% shooter like Ingles open from 3 which creates better lanes for Hayward and Hill.

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Granted I’m not saying benching Hood means taking him out of the game. I’m just proposing Instead of him playing 28 minutes a game, especially with his balky knee, maybe he needs to play 25 or less. I am saying Ingles needs to play more than 22 minutes a game and has made a case that it’s his starting job for a playoff run.

I would have to say that I’m sure Quin Snyder is enjoying the problem of having so many good players on his roster. Although it certainly presents some challenges such as the Hood/Ingles dilemma, it’s without a doubt a good problem to have.