The Los Angeles Clippers have recently picked up Australian forward Joe Ingles on a one year deal. Ingles garnered interest earlier in the offseason from multiple teams, and a dominant FIBA World Cup cemented his chance to join the NBA.
The 26 year old Ingles boasts a 6'8 frame with a 6'10 wingspan. This size sets him up to play as a small forward as well a stretch four at times. He drew interest from the NBA a few years ago, playing with the Warriors in Summer League, but was unable to stick at the time. This was mostly due to a lack of confidence and an underdeveloped shooting stroke.
After failing to make it in the NBA, Ingles took his talents to Europe. He used this time to develop his game, both on the court and mentally. His once suspect shooting stroke has been remade into a thing of beauty, shooting over 40% from three this past season, whilst putting up 225 attempts.
Here's a look at some of Ingles' highlights, both in Europe and whilst playing with Australia:
Speaking rigidly, Ingles is a small forward. However, using him as a conventional wing would be a waste of his skills. Joe is best used with the ball in his hands, showcasing rare playmaking and ball handling skills for a man of that size.
Australia boast two NBA point guards, Matthew Dellavedova and Dante Exum, and yet Ingles was more often than not given the playmaking duties. Even when Patty Mills has played with the Boomers, Ingles has acted as the main distributer, with Mills attacking off the ball. Overall, he sees the floor better than most point guards do. His ability to look over the defense helps in that regard. He also posses a nasty one handed pass that he throws in motion off the dribble. On fast breaks this can be used to devastating effect with alley-oop partners like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Australia used a motion offense in the World Cup, running a lot of horns and utilizing basic pick and roll sets. Ingles was used as the primary decision maker in most of these plays, showcasing his ability to read the defense and either find the open man or score.
Even if his playmaking and ball handling ability isn't utilised, Ingles should still be able to produce. He shows legitimate three point range, and should shoot close to 40% over a season.
One thing I'd worry about is his predictability. I've watched about 20 games he's played in and already know that when he drives right he's looking to pull up, and when he goes left, he's looking to finish at the rim. On the plus side, going left he is able to use his frame and length to finish at a high rate over big men. Going right, his pull up jump shot (especially from three) is automatic. However, in the NBA, where teams spend days scouting, especially in the playoffs, coaches will be able to focus on these weaknesses.
When playing small forward he's able to use his size and length to dominate smaller opponents. However, defensively he may struggle to contain quicker wings who are sharp off the dribble. He hasn't got good lateral quickness, but fights hard. Overall, I'd say he should be neither a positive nor a negative on defense.
If given the opportunity, Ingles should thrive in a modern NBA offense, given his unique talents. Most people guarding him (bigger wings or small power forwards) aren't comfortable defending the ball handler in a pick and roll. Throughout the World Cup, especially going left, Ingles constantly killed defenses when coming off picks. His ability to throw left handed passes cross court or to the roll man opened things up for himself and his teammates. When the opposition started going under picks and playing Ingles for the pass, he would calmly step back and knock down the open three pointer.
In my opinion, Ingles would be best used as a hybrid point forward. Signing him and still allowing Crawford to dominate the ball takes away Joe's biggest advantages, as would playing him alongside both Paul and Griffin for long stretches. Crawford could be deadly off the ball, catching a cross court pass from Ingles and then attacking a weakened defense. Ingles' size and length should allow him to play as a three or a four, giving Rivers even more flexibility. A bench lineup of Farmar, Crawford, Barnes, Ingles and Hawes could set teams on fire offensively, given Farmar and Hawes' elite shooting, Crawford's ability to attack and Barnes' movement off the ball. Throwing that lineup on the floor and putting the ball in Ingles' hands would be a lot of fun.
Someone asked me on Twitter for an NBA comparison of Ingles. I had trouble thinking of one at the time, but I think I've got one now: Tayshaun Prince. Both guys have similar bodies, are left handed, and can knock down shots or be a primary playmaker. I'm excited to see what the Aussie can bring to the Clippers this season in their hunt for a championship.