Out of contract at the end of the season, 34-year-old Joe Ingles’ devastating ACL tear has widespread repercussions for his career, the Boomers, and the Utah Jazz’s title aspirations.
Ingles fell awkwardly in the paint during the Jazz’s loss to the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Monday morning AEDT. His left knee had buckled, and scans in Salt Lake City confirmed the worst fears – it was an ACL tear for the Jazz stalwart.
Ingles is expected to undergo surgery to repair the ligament in the next fortnight, with a recovery timeline that will almost definitely run into 2022/23 NBA season.
With Ingles in the final year of his deal worth over $12 million USD, the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent’s future in the league will be up in the air. That isn’t the only repercussion to come from the devastating injury to one of Australia’s greats.
Will another NBA contract await Ingles?
Ingles came into the league after a brilliant career overseas. At 27 years of age he made his debut for the Jazz, and has since gone on to become the famous franchise’s all-time leader in three-pointers made.
Last season he finished runner-up in Sixth Man of the Year voting to teammate Jordan Clarkson, an incredible achievement for the playmaking forward in his 27.9 minutes per game.
Ingles hits all the necessary high watermarks to be an elite shooter in the league. He’s a career 41 per cent three-point shooter on 4.4 attempts per game, which has helped him to an effective field goal of 58 per cent across his seven years in the NBA.
In Utah Jazz history he’s fourth in three-point percentage, fifth in total assists, ninth in total steals and 14th in minutes played. He has become a Jazz great.
Since his rookie season in 2014/15, Ingles has missed just 15 of a total 650 possible games. He has been about as durable as it gets in the unforgiving 82-game schedule of the NBA.
Unfortunately, none of that will come into the reckoning of the Jazz if they don’t think he can contribute to winning basketball in his return from the ACL tear.
Ingles has regressed this year from his 2020/21 career campaign in which he shot an insane 45.1 per cent from three-point range. This season he’s averaging 7.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in a tick under 25 minutes of action.
His three-point shooting is just below league average at 34.7 per cent, and his frustration has spilled onto the court, having been ejected a league-leading three times.
It hasn’t been a great season by Ingles’ lofty standards, which may be telling in free agency during his ACL recovery.
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Nevertheless, the un-athletic forward has continually defied the NBA trends of explosiveness and power. He makes up for his movement with positional defending, will always be confident in his unique jump-shot from distance, and has the basketball nous necessary to play deep into his 30s.
The Jazz could offer him a veteran minimum (around $2.5 million USD) to return to the franchise, given the external factors that the beloved Aussie provides his team.
Ingles is widely regarded as one of the best mentors and locker room presences in the league, and teammates speaking candidly about him after the game in Minnesota.
If Ingles isn’t offered a multi-year contract by a franchise in free agency, he could have his pick of team on a minimum contract. It means Ingles could position himself to chase a title with a contender like the Warriors or Bucks that could use his floor-spacing and secondary playmaking.
His loyalty and love of Salt Lake City is undoubted though, so there’s a distinct possibility he finds his way back in a Jazz uniform.
How does Utah contend without Ingles?
A modern-day perennial powerhouse with Ingles in its lineup, the Jazz will be searching for answers with the Australian sidelined for the rest of the season. Currently sitting in fourth place in the competitive West, they’re in the midst of a downward spiral having lost their last five games and eight of their last 10.
This has been due to short-term injuries and Covid protocols effectively wiping out the team’s entire core rotation including All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert.
The Jazz will be confident of finishing the regular season off strongly to secure a home playoff series, but Ingles was their Swiss army knife off the bench.
Point guard Mike Conley’s health will be as vital as ever, with the 34-year-old typically backed up by Ingles leaving Mitchell and Clarkson to be scorers.
The acquisition of Danuel House Jr. may prove to be an inspired decision, while veteran Rudy Gay continues to perform at a high level and will be a key contributor in the playoffs.
There’s a path to contention for the Jazz still, but Joe Ingles’ ACL tear has huge ramifications for the immediate chances of the franchise.
The Australian Boomers have a loaded upcoming schedule with the 2022 Commonwealth Games, 2023 FIBA World Cup and 2024 Olympic Games.
Though Joe Ingles wasn’t expected to join the Boomers in 2022, his ACL tear casts some doubt on his ability to play for the Boomers in the upcoming years as well.
The Boomers are coming off an historic Tokyo 2020 campaign in which they won the nation’s first-ever medal for men’s basketball.
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