• Nick Boylan

Joe Ingles’ Glue Is Sticking in the Utah Jazz Starting Five

The Utah Jazz have been cooking of late, winning nine of their last twelve games.

Punctuated by a 13-point victory over the powerhouse Los Angeles Clippers, before a second-half demolition job led to a 23-point win over the Detroit Pistons, the Jazz are now clicking like many had predicted at the start of the season.

More specifically, the Jazz’s 9-3 record over that span has coincided with a lineup change. After starting the season with similar struggles to his ball club, Joe Ingles has returned to the starting lineup in place of the injured Mike Conley, and flourished.

Ingles has averaged 16 points, five rebounds and six assists during this span, with some incredibly efficient shooting numbers.

Scorching the net from downtown at 51.4 percent on 6.7 attempts per game puts Ingles in rare air. In fact, this has him leading the league in efficiency in players who take six threes and above per game.

Ingles has bounced back from his early season funk and has been on fire of late, adding step back threes to his arsenal and helping the Jazz get rolling.

Often seen as the barometer of this Jazz team, particularly if Donovan Mitchell has the clamps put on him by opposition defenders, Ingles does more than just fill up the score sheet.

His ability to both run the pick and roll to perfection with Rudy Gobert, and find players like Mitchell, Bogdan Bogdanović and Royce O’Neale for great looks is brilliant to watch.

While affectionately called “Slo Mo Joe” by some, Ingles does often see the game in slow motion, with his IQ on both ends of the floor much lauded. Ahead of Utah’s game against Detroit, Pistons head coach Dwayne Casey had similar remarks.

“He looks like he’s slow, can’t move, and [has] a bartender-type look...but he’s a legit star in our league,” Casey said.

Possessing two-way versatility unlike many on the roster, Ingles playing his way back into form has helped with continuity. With so many off-season moves, the Australian told the Inside The NBA team after their win against Portland, that it’s taken some time to adjust.

“We had the same roster here for quite a while. So having 10-odd new guys took a bit of time, but I think we’re heading in the right direction and obviously our record kind of shows that,” Ingles said.

Part of that new season change saw Ingles accept a sixth-man role for the Jazz, as free-agency signing Bogdanović took Ingles’ spot at the 3 position, while lower-usage O’Neale manned the power forward position.

Part of Ingles’ struggles off the bench was due to personnel, with the new reserve unit drastically changing from last season. Chief amongst the changes was the absence of the pick-and-roll connection Ingles had with Derrick Favors.

With Favors replaced by high energy rebounder but less than impressive pick-and-roll weapon Ed Davis, and joined by Emmanuel Mudiay and Jeff Green, Ingles was tasked with uniting this motley crew of new Jazz players.

In these 20 games off the bench, Ingles scoring dropped to 9.7 points per game, while only shooting 31.2 percent from three-point range. Adding 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists, these weren’t ghastly numbers from Ingles but it’s clear that the starting lineup has benefitted from the Australian’s insertion.

Not only does Ingles provide a steady playmaking hand, strong defense and versatility, his three-point shooting can get going in a hurry.

Take this example from early on in Utah’s matchup with Portland, where Ingles went perfect from the floor with 14 points on 5-5 shooting and 4-4 from downtown.

With Ingles’ strong play, it does give Snyder great problems to have as a coach, when Conley is fit to return. Does Ingles drop back to the bench in a sixth man role once more? Or does 3-and-D specialist O’Neale return to the second unit, leaving Bogdanović to play at the power forward position?

As Jordan Clarkson has just joined the team, it does give the ex-Cavalier a chance to run the second unit when he’s not replacing Mitchell with the starting group. Having O’Neale play as the bench’s glue, something he’s more familiar with, leaves Snyder a chance to roll out a lineup of:

PG - Conley

SG - Mitchell

SF - Ingles

PF - Bogdanović

C - Gobert

With Ingles’ current form trending upwards with the team’s, it will be interesting to see if this is what Snyder’s starting five looks like heading into the back end of the season.

While the Jazz have racked up wins, they haven’t rocketed up the standings, with their poor start costing them in the strong Western Conference. This could change however with an upcoming schedule against teams including New York, Charlotte and Washington.

Sitting only a few games outside of 2nd in the West, starting 2020 with a vengeance will be key for the Jazz, with consistency at a premium heading into the All-Star break.

Every team with championship aspirations has that glue guy to help everything tick. They won’t always have the highlights or light up the scoreboard, but they make things tick for their teammates.

With Ingles back in the starting lineup, it’s no secret who that player is for the Jazz.

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