Utah Jazz Best Case/Worst Case Scenario Series: Joe Ingles

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 01: Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz shoots baskets during an NBL Media Opportunity at Cruise Bar on August 1, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 01: Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz shoots baskets during an NBL Media Opportunity at Cruise Bar on August 1, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images) /

Joe Ingles was a model of consistency last season and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him produce similar results for the Utah Jazz in 2017-18.

Although Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert were the two Utah Jazz players that were most credited with helping lead the team to such illustrious heights last season, there’s no denying that Joe Ingles’ significant improvements played a major role as well. Ingles’ story of success is one of the best in the NBA as he managed to go from more or less a castaway to becoming a starter on a playoff-caliber team last season.

Ingles elevated his scoring average from 4.2 points per game to 7.1 while increasing his assists from 1.2 to 2.7. However, his most stark improvements came in his transformation into an absolute sharpshooter from deep as well as a formidable and pesky perimeter defender. Ingles’ 44.1 percent three-point stroke ended up as one of the best in the league and his ability to cover several positions effectively allowed him to stay on the court when the stakes were highest.

He’s also an all-around team player and glue guy that fits the Jazz roster perfectly. Thus it came as little surprise when the Jazz quickly re-signed him this offseason to a lucrative 4-year, $52 million contract. Ingles had battled to prove that he deserves a spot on this team and he was rightfully rewarded.

However, with his close friend and former teammate Gordon Hayward now off the team, the Jazz will need Ingles to be even more of a model of consistency than he’s already been. Despite his outrageous three-point percentage, Ingles averaged just 1.5 made threes per game in 2016-17 and if he’s going to help Utah make up for the loss of Hayward’s offense, he’ll likely have to be even more willing to pull the trigger and subsequently convert.

Ingles’ durability was a huge plus for the Jazz last season as he appeared in all 82 games (as well as 81 in 2015-16 and 79 in 2014-15) so hopefully that aspect of his game will continue. The Jazz will need that and more out of him this upcoming year if he is truly to live up to the hefty contract he netted this offseason.

Best Case Scenario

Joe Ingles isn’t the kind of guy that’s going to give you 20 points night in and night out, but if he can take advantage of the void left by Gordon Hayward and continue to be a reliable deep-ball threat, he should very well shatter his previous season scoring average and break into double figures – 10-12 points per game. Even though at 29 years old Ingles is no spring chicken, he did make massive strides last year and has praised Coach Snyder’s ability to bring out the best in him.

With that being the case, it wouldn’t be beyond comprehension that Joe could make yet another leap once again in 2017-18. Ingles’ best case scenario is that he begins the season as a starter and sets himself apart as clearly deserving that role all year long because of his exceptional shooting and feisty defense. To do that, he’ll have to not only log the aforementioned 10-12 points per game, but also continue to convert from deep at a clip of at least 40 percent.

Ingles more or less stole Rodney Hood’s starting gig near the end of last season and now with the two of them likely starting together, Ingles will have to adapt to play well alongside him while also helping to make up for some of the scoring that Hayward once contributed. As long as he remains healthy and continues the upward trajectory that he displayed last year, Ingles should be able to prove himself as a worthy NBA starter and a key piece to Utah’s success once again this season.

Worst Case Scenario

Ingles’ worst case scenario hardly seems likely given that he was a model of consistency last year and seems to have shown us pretty much exactly what he is. We know he’s not going to wow us with athleticism or flashiness, but we can also count on him game in and game out to give his all and be unafraid to do the dirty work that the team asks of him.

The biggest way that Ingles could turn into a disappointment this season would be if without Hayward on the floor to play alongside, he ends up being exposed as little more than a role player, not a bona fide NBA starter. Perhaps from there his confidence wains and his three-point percentage plummets from last year which likely would ultimately result in Ingles coming off the bench for much of the season.

His coming off the bench wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing given that he’s enjoyed significant success during his time as a Jazzman playing as part of the reserve unit. However, if his assignment to a bench role comes due to a failure to perform rather than a simple chemistry tweak, it could mean bad news for Ingles and the Jazz as a whole.

Ingles proved beyond a shadow of a doubt last season that he is worthy of significant playing time and I expect him to do the same this year. The major difference between his worst and best case scenarios will simply be how many minutes he is logging and how big of an impact he is able to make in that playing time.

In a best case scenario, he’s likely playing around 30 minutes per game while logging double-figure scoring and upwards of 40 percent shooting from deep. On the flip side, though, if he faces struggles this season, he could find himself with even less playing time than last year – right around 18-22 minutes per game – and with diminished production.

Next: Utah Jazz Best Case/Worst Case Scenario Series: Joe Johnson

Ingles was a solid piece to the Jazz’s success last season and given his abilities and style of play, it’s hard to see him taking much of a step backwards in 2017-18, especially considering that he’ll have an expanded role. On the flip side of that, it’s also unlikely that he makes massive improvements, so any area that he can shore up will be a pleasant perk.

The good news is that even if Ingles stays right around the same level as he performed last season (which wouldn’t be surprising), that will mean that he is still a constant and steady player who the Jazz will rely on to make key hustle plays and knock down big shots when they need them the most.