- After trading for Ricky Rubio and re-signing Joe Ingles, the Utah Jazz have built a strong case for retaining All-Star Gordon Hayward.
Joe Ingles’ long, strange basketball journey has culminated in the payday of a lifetime, and it just might be enough to help sway Gordon Hayward to stay in Utah.
The Jazz have agreed so sign Ingles—a 29-year-old Australian forward who went undrafted and didn’t make his NBA debut until age 27—to a four-year contract worth $52 million, according to multiple reports. Ingles (7.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.7 APG) posted career-highs across the board last season, emerging as a starter down the stretch and throughout the postseason for Utah. After making previous professional stops in Australia, Spain and Israel, and then signing a paltry two-year, $4.5 million contract in 2015, Ingles will see his salary more than quintuple next season.
Why is “Jinglin’ Joe” raking in all this dough? For two reasons: 1) What he brings to the table on the court, and 2) What he brings to the boardroom table during Utah’s upcoming Hayward pitch.
Ingles isn’t an athletic marvel or a major stat-producer, but he is an intelligent, crafty, and versatile forward who played a key role in Utah’s offensive improvement last season. Although he is a skilled outside shooter (career-high 44.1%), Ingles isn’t just a “stand around and wait” floor-spacer. Rather, he’s a capable secondary ball-handler and offense-initiator who eased the playmaking burden on Hayward and helped compensate for Utah’s lack of a premier point guard. With Ingles on the court last season, Utah’s offensive efficiency jumped up by nearly four points to 109.4, equivalent to the league’s seventh best attack. His reliability shouldn’t be overlooked either: On a Jazz team that has been repeatedly decimated by injuries, Ingles has missed just four games combined during his three NBA seasons.
Utah surely understands Ingles’ symbolic value further enhances his basketball value. Ingles and Hayward are close friends and they share an agent. By keeping Ingles in the fold and taking care of Ingles quickly rather than forcing him to wait out a match in restricted free agency, the Jazz have sent a clear message to Hayward: We’re serious about progressing further towards championship contention.
Once the Jazz get their shot with Hayward, who met with Miami on Saturday and will soon meet with Boston, they can make this case: We’ve improved our record for four straight seasons, we won a playoff series, you made the All-Star team, and we took the necessary steps to avoid any regression this summer. Those steps, which now include re-signing Ingles and trading for Ricky Rubio as a cheaper alternative to free agent George Hill, give Utah a legitimate shot at a top-four seed in the West next season. If Hayward does decide to leave, the Jazz can turn to their fanbase and believably claim that they took their best shot.
While some casual fans might suffer from sticker shock at this number, this shouldn’t be a deal that Utah winds up regretting, even if Hayward does bolt and even if Ingles’ three-point shooting regresses next season. His game isn’t predicated on speed or leaping ability and he has avoided meaningful injuries throughout his NBA tenure, putting him in position to maintain his current value for at least the first half of this deal. The worst-case scenario for Utah was that the Ingles negotiation got messy or ultra-expensive, complicating Hayward’s situation. Those nightmares have been avoided, and Utah can move forward with confidence and a compelling pitch.