Joe Ingles Is The Jazz ‘Utility Infielder’

May 12, 2021, 7:00 PM
Joe Ingles - Utah Jazz...
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Joe Ingles is so versatile on the NBA floor, the best way to describe his style of play might be to use a position from another sport. According to Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder, the Australian guard most closely resembles a baseball utility infielder, even if Ingles doesn’t know what that means.

Now in his seventh season with the Jazz, the long-shot undrafted free agent has developed into one of the premier role players in the NBA, with seemingly no end to the ways Snyder can use him.

“I talked to him early in the year about being a utility infielder,” Snyder said, “first I had to explain to him what baseball was.”

Joe Ingles: Utility Infielder

On the baseball field, a utility infielder can generally play second base, third base, or shortstop depending on a game’s situation. Similarly, Ingles can fill multiple roles for the Jazz.

“Whether he’s handling it at the point, running the wing, spacing as a four, he’s done everything,” Snyder said. He’s guarded so many different matchups.”

Ingles famously frustrated Paul George in the Utah Jazz 2018 first-round playoff series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. But even before that, Snyder recalled another standout playoff performance.

“I still remember him guarding Lou Williams,” the Jazz coach said over the team’s 2017 first-round series win over the Los Angeles Clippers. “He wasn’t necessarily supposed to be able to do that, and he did it in a different way, he used this length.”

As Ingles has continued to develop, now well into his early thirties, his versatility has gotten even more valuable. Rather than having to adjust the Jazz roster to fit Ingles aging skillset, Ingles can alter his role on any given night.

“Let’s say there are these four things that he’s doing,” Snyder used an example. “One game may require more of the third thing, one game may require one and two.”

That may be a simple as handling primary ball-handling duties one night, or playing as a floor spacer the next

Though few saw Ingles potential to develop into such an important piece on a contending team when he entered the league as a 27-year-old rookie, perhaps it should be no surprise considering who Ingles says he partially modeled his game after — future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili.

Ginobili was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the 57th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft.

After playing three additional years in Italy, Ginobili joined the Spurs where he accrued two All-Star appearances, two All-NBA appearances, a Sixth Man of the Year Award, and four NBA titles.

Though Ginobili lacked Ingles size, he also handled a variety of roles from point guard to floor spacer to the Spurs defensive stopper.

“I think [there are] some similarities with Manu, but I don’t want to ever put myself anywhere near in the same bracket as him,” Ingles said, “because he’s a Hall of Famer and what, four-time champion?”

While they may not be identical players, the Jazz would welcome Ginobili’s longevity when it comes to Ingles.

After making his final All-Star appearance at age 33 (coincidentally the same age as Ingles today), Ginobili had seven more productive seasons for the Spurs before retiring at age 40.

Even if Ingles decides to retire long before his 4oth birthday, his unique game may continue to diversify as long as he’s with the Jazz.

“I figured out things that work for me over my career, obviously, I’ve worked on things that I haven’t been as good at, and I just try to play my own game.”

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Joe Ingles Is The Jazz ‘Utility Infielder’