Orlando Magic must give Joe Ingles minutes

Joe Ingles gives the Orlando Magic some much-needed shooting. And he should find himself in the opening night rotation. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Ingles gives the Orlando Magic some much-needed shooting. And he should find himself in the opening night rotation. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

When the news first broke about the Orlando Magic’s big off-season signing in Joe Ingles, the reactions were mixed. The Aussie was not the most exciting name on the market.

But the Magic community seemed to appreciate he would bring just what the team needed: Veteran presence and a shooting touch.

Joe Ingles was coming to Orlando after inking a two-year, $22-million dollar deal (with a team option on the second year), a number that may have given some Magic fans sticker shock for a guy that many, including this writer, assumed would be getting spot minutes.

That is the cost of doing business and bringing in a veteran to an unproven team.

Even at that big price, it was hard to say where Ingles would fit. The team was loaded on wings and had young players the team was likely looking to play. Ingles is two years removed from a torn ACL and had an up-and-down season with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The flexibility his contract provided made it seem like it was no sure thing he would make it to the end of the season, let alone play. As much as the Magic needed his shooting, they had rookies to develop in both Anthony Black and Jett Howard (involved in their own roster crunches for playing time).

But after a whopping preseason sample size of 30 minutes in two games, it is clear if the goal is winning, Ingles should find himself in the rotation and a key part of it too.

The Orlando Magic are still getting a feel for veteran free agent signing Joe Ingles. In the preseason though it is clear the skills he brings to a shot-starved Magic team, Ingles has a big role to play.

Ingles is a career 40.8-percent 3-point shooter and made 40.9 percent of his three-pointers in his lone season for the Bucks last year. He has established himself as one of the best shooters in the league for several years — in both spot-up and catch-and-shoot situations.

That shooting efficiency from beyond the arc is the 11th-best for active players and the 25th-best percentage in league history. Opponents have to respect Ingles’ ability to knock down shots, and keep a man on him at all times.

The benefits for offensive spacing for the Orlando Magic are already apparent.

In the preseason, Ingles is pacing himself with eight points and 2-for-5 shooting from deep. His versatility has helped with his ability to play either forward position and move the ball in addition to his shooting are integral for the team.

He has already helped the bench group a ton in his limited minutes so far.

The spacing Ingles can provide is important for franchise cornerstone Paolo Banchero who feasts in the midrange and at the hoop.So much of the Orlando offense is predicated on space. Having actual 3-point threats is only going to make the lineup dangerous. That is why Ingles is important.

If you have high hopes for Anthony Black, Joe Ingles provides a necessary counterbalance to the rookie’s inside game.

The stat line for Joe Ingles will rarely jump off the page. Ingles is averaging 8.5 points per game for his career. He is not a dominant scorer. He is not even a volume 3-point shooter, taking 4.4 per game last year and his for career but topping off at 6.1 per game in 2021.

But the 6-foot-9 forward’s value far exceeds the numbers.

More than just extending the geometry of the Magic’s offense to the three-point line, Ingles creates motion in the offense, makes smart decisions with the ball, and is a much more capable pick-and-roll ball handler than most knew.

While with the Utah Jazz in 2022, Ingles averaged 1.02 points per possession in the pick-and-roll. An average equal to CJ McCollum, Tyrese Maxey and even Stephen Curry.

Then there is the veteran leadership already on full display. Ingles looks like an air traffic controller at times, pointing out positioning to teammates, and pushing for movement off the ball.

After a foul call in the preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, frustration was creeping onto Magic teammates’ faces, when Ingles called everyone to a huddle and brought the focus back to the next play.

He did the same during Tuesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans when the broadcast picked him up coming off the bench to give direction alongside Jamahl Mosley to Chuma Okeke. Okeke’s block and 3-point sequence from that game followed immediately after that.

An anecdote recounted by Dante Marchitelli on the most recent episode of Orlando Magic Pod Squad shows how much his teammates already look to him:

"“It was pretty interesting in training camp Coach Mosley said you [the team] can pick one guy. If he makes a three you don’t have to run. And everybody unanimously looked at Joe, and he stepped out into the corner, nailed a three and they didn’t have to run.”"

That is certainly already a sign of trust between a mostly established roster and the veteran newcomer.

The players already know what fans are beginning to see: Ingles’ leadership, veteran savvy, shrewd decision-making, and elite shooting make him a key part of winning basketball for the Magic.

The rotation is still getting set for the Magic. It is not clear exactly where everyone fits in. But there are a distinct 11 players who seem set to fight for regular minutes. Ingles has clearly put himself in that group.

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Considering how his skill set is so different than anything the Magic have and so important to what the team needs to do, Ingles should find himself in the rotation on opening night next week and an important player for the Magic all season.