Sixth Man Joe
Updated: Sep 17, 2019
The Utah Jazz are a very dangerous team but may become more so with "Sixth Man Joe" taking the helm of the secondary unit.
Throughout his five seasons with the Jazz, fans have come to know him by many names. “Slow-Mo Joe”, “Headband Joe”, and “Jinglin’ Joe” are just a handful of nicknames Ingles has picked up from fans and media alike.
Next season may award him yet another moniker: Sixth-Man Joe.
The Utah Jazz executed several moves this offseason to improve the team. Utah’s GM Justin Zanik traded for Mike Conley and signed forward Bojan Bogdanovic to a lucrative deal in free agency.
Utah’s starting lineup appears to feature Conley, Mitchell, Ingles, Bogdanovic, and Gobert; quite a deadly crew. The four perimeter players shot a combined 1,814 3PA last year connecting on 38.4% of them, while Gobert attempted 626 shots at the rim by himself, shooting 71.7%.
Talk about spacing upon smart shots upon spacing upon smart shots.
Despite the seemingly obvious notion to proceed with such a lineup to start and close games, there’s a high likelihood Joe Ingles’ role shifts to lead the second unit as Utah’s primary sixth man.
Shortly after the Jazz unofficially agreed to a deal with Bogdanovic, Tony Jones of the Athletic reported, “One plan is for the Jazz to bring in a power forward with the room exception to be the STARTER. That means, Bogdanovic at small forward, if that happens, and Joe Ingles as sixth man.”
We know in retrospect that the Jazz scooped up veteran forward Jeff Green on a minimum contract. Green and O’Neale seem the likeliest of candidates to assume the starting 4 role come start of the season.
This does not mean, however, that Joe’s importance to the team or hierarchical status has changed. He is still clearly one of the five best players on the team and possibly even more crucial to their success.
Tony also clarified in the same report that the “closing lineup plan is to have Ingles and Bogdanovic on the floor together.” No need to fret Jazz fans, we will indeed have the pleasure of enjoying the ultra spacing, ultra smart shot lineup described above.
There are still questions left to answer; why the change, what are the benefits, how will it work?
Usage is a key factor in the decision. By adding Conley over Rubio you increase last year’s usage by 4.6%. The addition of Bogdanovic in place of Favors increases last year’s usage by 3%.
With Donovan’s high usage and keeping Ingles’ and Gobert’s the same, you will likely run into issues similar to what the Celtics have experienced: not enough shots to keep people happy.
An easy solution is to replace Joe’s 17.5% usage with that of Royce O’Neale’s 11.0%. That nearly offsets the additions of Conley and Bogdanovic while giving the bench some more playmaking.
The pick and roll is a key component of the Jazz’s offense. Combining last year’s possessions running the pick and roll by Conley, Mitchell, Bogdanovic, and Ingles we arrive at 1,931. Only 500 possessions were ran by the prospective bench unit: Exum, Mudiay, O’Neale, Green, Niang.
An O’Neale for Ingles switch gives both units more balance by arriving at a 2:1 ratio, as opposed to the 4:1 ratio by keeping Ingles in the starting lineup.
Planning for the Future
Joe Ingles has two years and just over $22M left on his contract. By the start of the season Joe will have turned 32 years old, having just completed two seasons of playing all 82 games and averaging 31.4 minutes per game.
It’s time to maximize his value now and for the future.
A move to the bench likely decreases his minutes to just 27 or 28 per game. But over an 82 game season, that’s approximately 360 fewer minutes and more playing time against lesser talented opposition.
It’s no secret the Jazz organization and fans love Joe. It seems unlikely he finishes his current contract with the team without the Jazz looking to bring him back. A role change now will begin the preventative maintenance process that will help Joe stay Joe as long as possible.
Sixth Man Joe
Though Joe would never care, we as fans certainly preoccupy ourselves with the possibilities of recognition. A move to the bench qualifies Ingles for the Sixth Man of the Year award for the upcoming season. What would it take to be in the running?
After some research of the past ten winners, there’s no clear path to the award. Some winners relied on volume stats, others on their team impact and win percentage. An average compilation of stats, team impact, and team winning is the likeliest of avenues for Joe to make a case.
Though unlikely that Joe puts together the necessary resume, it is certainly a narrative for the season we will be monitoring and marketing.
Awarded or not at season’s end, fans can be sure this role adjustment for Joe is in his and the team’s best interests. We’ll be getting “Slow-Mo Joe”, “Headband Joe”, “Jinglin’ Joe”, and “Sixth Man Joe” for many more seasons should things go according to plan.
Who knows, he might even stick around long enough for a new nickname.