After making just over $2 million last season, Utah Jazz wing Joe Ingles could be in line for a huge pay raise this offseason.
Without Gordon Hayward’s All-Star ascent and Rudy Gobert’s emergence as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, the Utah Jazz wouldn’t be where they are today. It’s a no-brainer statement, right? Stars win in the NBA and Hayward and Gobert have reached that status with the Jazz.
Having said that, teams also have a hard time winning without quality players taking on key roles in support of those stars. With that in mind, I think it’s also safe to say that the Jazz band wouldn’t have made the sweet music they did last season and beyond without Joe Ingles.
The crazy thing about that is that Ingles was never really meant to take on the role that he has.
When the Australian began his NBA journey, the Jazz were stocked on the wings with phenoms like Alec Burks and Rodney Hood in the rotation with Hayward. At the time, Ingles was an afterthought; a late training camp cut by the LA Clippers brought in to take a spot at the end of the bench and maybe help provide fellow Aussie Dante Exum with a soft landing.
Needless to say, he’s become much more than that in the ensuing years. Injuries to Burks, Hood and others forced Jazz coach Quin Snyder to lean on the 29-year-old time and time again and he responded by cementing himself as an integral cog for a team that now knocks on the door of the league’s elite.
It’s been a joy for Jazz fans to watch, but for a team that’s looking to keep its core intact and make further inroads to the league’s upper crust within the financial constraints of the salary cap, Ingles’ improvement may have the unintended consequence of pricing him out of the team’s fiscal comfort zone.
Last season, the Jazz paid Ingles a little over $2 million. Comparatively speaking, it was a paltry sum for his production. Ingles averaged a career high 7.1 points in 24 minutes per game, starting in 26 of his 82 games played and finishing fourth in the Association in three-point shooting at 44.1 percent.
He also displayed the kind of versatility on both sides of the ball that comes at a premium in today’s game.
Offensively speaking, in addition to being a deadeye shooter from distance, Ingles could be counted on to both initiate and run the offense. This was never more apparent than in Game 4 of Utah’s first-round playoff series with the LA Clippers when Ingles racked up 11 assists and led the Jazz to a seven-point win at Vivint Arena.
Defensively, he’s also able to do a litany of things that help a team win. At 6-foot-8, he can bang down low and corral rebounds for you, but he’s also adept at guarding out on the perimeter. As of this moment, Ingles ranks sixth league-wide in steals at 2.0 per game during postseason play.
Even with his 30th birthday looming, you can’t get away with paying a player that does all of these things $2 million for long. And with Ingles set to hit the open market this summer, his big payday is coming sooner rather than later.
With the cap continuing to balloon in the wake of the league’s massive television deal, players of Ingles’ ilk are making more than ever before.
Last summer, for example, Jared Dudley inked a three-year, $30 million deal with the Phoenix Suns. Meanwhile, Matthew Dellavedova, another blue-collar Aussie baller, signed on with the Milwaukee Bucks for four years and $38 million dollars.
Given those and other deals that have been doled out recently, it’s not unfathomable that Ingles could land a contract that approaches eight digits annually. In looking strictly at the market, that’s probably close to fair value for Ingles.
However, with Hayward and George Hill at the top of Utah’s priority list and both expected to garner max (or near-max in Hill’s case) deals and with Rudy Gobert’s massive extension set to kick in next season, it may be difficult for the Jazz to pay Ingles what he’s worth.
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For his part, Ingles seems to want to stay. “Everyone knows that I want to come back,” he said this week. “I couldn’t think of a better place to come back. Hopefully it all works out and it’s a nice, quick process.”
The feeling is undoubtedly mutual, but in the financial free-for-all that is the modern free agent frenzy, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey’s quest to keep his big guns in town while improving pieces on the periphery could serve to complicate matters between the team and its glue guy.