Utah Jazz: The Point Joe Ingles experiment was a success

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images /

Joe Ingles typically isn’t brought up in superstar conversations, but for the Utah Jazz, he’s been vital to their success amidst injuries.

For Utah Jazz fans, this season may have given many a sense of deja vú. Ricky Rubio has missed extended periods of time due to a hamstring injury, Dante Exum is out indefinitely and they are only two games better than where they were at at this point last season. For some teams, that would cause concern.

For the Jazz, they’re content with where they’re at.

While it’s disheartening to see the recently extended Dante Exum on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Ricky Rubio is back and has played well since his return. There’s been one player for the Jazz who’s stepped up in their point guards’ absences though, and that’s Jinglin’ Joe Ingles.

It was roughly two months ago that the Jazz were suffering a slew of injuries. Head coach Quin Snyder opted to move rising star Donovan Mitchell to the 1-spot, but despite Mitchell’s promising transition to the point in the early going, even he couldn’t carry the offensive load on his own.

Ingles hasn’t started at point guard in his career — he’s played exactly zero percent of his minutes in the NBA at the 1 — but Snyder has entrusted Ingles with more ball-handling responsibilities in the aforementioned players’ absences. The results have been better than expected.

Dating back to the end of January (specifically Jan. 27, a 14-point win over the Minnesota Timberwolves) Joe Ingles has recorded at least five assists in 20 of the last 25 games. During that stretch, Utah has gone 17-8 and is currently fifth in the Western Conference standings, with a legitimate chance to finish a seed or two higher by season’s end. Utah’s success can’t all be attributed to Ingles, but he’s been a huge part of it.

He currently leads the team in total assists and is second on the team in assists per game. Ingles also has the third-highest assist percentage on the team (25.6 percent), meaning that of all the time he has accrued on the floor this season, he’s assisted his teammates just over a quarter of the time.

Ingles’ on-court plus/minus (+7.8) is best among all starters and his on-off plus-minus (+7.6) is best among all Jazz players who qualify.

Ingles’ passing acumen culminated in an 11-point, 14-assist, nine-rebound performance against the Los Angeles Lakers last week. According to The Athletic, Snyder asked Ingles if he would like to go back in to try to grab another rebound to achieve the Jazz’s first triple-double in over 11 years. He rhetorically asked Snyder if they were winning, smiled and politely declined.

Ingles’ 14 assists that night were a career high, breaking his previous career-high record of 11 that he had recorded just a few weeks earlier against the New Orleans Pelicans.

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Ingles may have never played a minute at point guard, but heading into the playoffs, it’s nice to know the Jazz have a player that can lighten the load when rotations tighten and pressure rises.