An inside look at the historic season that Joe Ingles is having for the Utah Jazz.
Do you want to know who leads the NBA in effective field goal percentage? Who is the most efficient (non-center) scorer in the NBA?
Steph Curry? Nope.
Dame Lillard? Try again.
Ben Simmons? Don’t make me laugh.
Giannis Antetokoumpo? No sir.
Zion Williamson? Not yet.
Kevin Durant? Close.
Joseph Howarth Ingles. “Jinglin” Joe Ingles, the 6-foot-8, 33-year-old “unathletic” wing Australian that looks more like a substitute high teacher than a professional basketball player – that’s your effective field goal percentage (non-center) leader for the 2020-21 season right now.
Joe Ingles has an effective field goal percentage of 66.7 percent this season, a nearly absurd number for anyone who uses more than 10 possessions a night. Effective Field Goal Percentage usually caters to big men scorers (Kevin Durant, Michael Porter Jr.) or rim-running dunkers (Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis, Jarrett Allen) – not to some “non-dunking” wing who is in his 30s – the only full-time starter that ranks higher than Ingles is Rudy Gobert.
Ingles is having a career year, averaging 12.3 points per game while shooting 47 percent from 3 and taking six 3-point attempts per game. Both he and Joe Harris are the only players in the league who are shooting 45 percent or greater from the arc while taking more than six per night.
Ingles’s lights-out shooting is making a huge impact on the Utah Jazz this year – the team is 4.1 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the floor. You may think this guy looks like a DirectTV repairman, but Ingles has far more substance as a basketball player than meets the eye.
While Ingles has been terrific all season, there have been patches where he’s been on fire. The Australian had a 20-game stretch this season where Ingles took 6.4 3’s per game and shooting 57 percent from 3. He had a 40-game run where he was shooting 53 percent from 3 while taking 5.9 3’s a game.
The only thing that is comparable to this stretch is when Kyle Korver shot 5.7 3’s per game and made 52 percent over a 30-game span in 2015 with the Atlanta Hawks. Even the best shooters in the game, Steph Curry and Dame Lillard have never had a run of 3-point efficiency like this in their careers (I know, I know – those are Hall-of-Famers who have a bigger workload, but still).
Ingles had some impressive 3-point shooting nights this season: a 7-for-10 night against the Hornets, 8-for-10 against the Wizards, and 7-for-11 against the Mavericks. Ingles has 13 games this season where he’s made five or more 3’s, and the Jazz is 11-2 in those games. He’s been just an offensive force, and not with bulk amounts of shots or one-on-one play – he’s done it with sharpshooting, great pick-and-roll reads, and efficiency.
Development and evolution of Joel Ingles’s game
What’s most amazing about this season for Ingles is where he started his career. Ingles was not drafted in the NBA and started off playing professional ball in China before signing with FC Barcelona in his early 20s. He struggled to find his place on a loaded Barcelona team, but really found his groove when he went to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv with former Cavs coach Dave Blatt. Ingles was an integral part of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s EuroLeague Championship win back in the 2013 season.
Ingles came to the NBA trying to make the Clippers 15-man roster in 2014, but lost out on the last roster spot to Jared Cunningham (ouch, Clipper Fans). As Ingles was packing his bags and getting ready to fly back out to Europe, Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey called him and signed Ingles to a 10-day contract. Ingles came to Utah, impressed with his interesting mix of skills, and eventually earned himself a permanent spot on the roster. An incredible success story – Ingles did not log his first minute in the NBA until he was 27 years old.
His first season with the Utah Jazz was a true growing period for Ingles. He earned significant playing time because of his ability to handle, pass and play defense. However, he was not seen as much of a threat from beyond the arc. That season Ingles attempted 2.5 3’s a game and only shot 35 percent.
The vast majority of those three attempts were when the closest defender was more than five feet away. He flat-out was reluctant at times to even take those wide-open shots. His release was easily the slowest in the NBA – it was like watching a medieval army load up a catapult during battle. When you watched Ingles play that season, there is a feeling that his lack of shooting would make it hard for him to ever play meaningful minutes on a contender.
But what makes Joe Ingles so good is his constant rate of improvement to his game. Every offseason since 2014, Ingles has worked on some elements of his offensive game, spending time on improving on things like his shot release, balance, pull-up 3 game, and others. And as he improved, his stats improved. Ingles went from shooting 35.6 percent in 2015 to 38.4 percent in 2016, all the way up to 44.1 percent in both 2017 and 2018. This year Ingles found an even higher gear at 47 percent while sporting a career-high in attempts. He’s also having a career-high year overall from the field (50.1%) and from the free-throw line (84.2%).
And Ingles isn’t just some spot-up shooter – what makes him so incredible is this versatility. He can be a spot-up shooter when asked, he has also served as a secondary scorer in certain lineups and can play the primary ballhandler position with a high degree of efficiency. He’s currently in the 81st percentile in offensive efficiency in the pick and roll, and the Joe Ingles/Rudy Gobert pick and roll combo is in the 95th percentile – it’s unstoppable.
Ingles is the epitome of persistence and having a growth mindset. Since he’s come into the league, Ingles has figured out holes in his game then works on ways to improve that. Ingles has shown everyone that, regardless of your specialties or craft, or skillset, you can always improve and get better.
It’s difficult to speculate whether Ingles can continue this upward trajectory of offensive efficiency at his age. Usually, guys not named LeBron James start to fall off once they hit their mid-30s.
But as we all know, Joe Ingles isn’t just a usual guy.