The underrated value of Joe Ingles in elevating the Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic did not really make any big moves this past offseason. For the most part, they stayed put. They drafted two rookies and made one free agent signing in Joe Ingles, the savvy 36-year-old Australian veteran. It has turned out to be a big signing for Orlando as Ingles has done all they could ask for and more.

Orlando Magic v Utah Jazz
Orlando Magic v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages
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The Orlando Magic were not going to go for a big fish this offseason.

The team's goal was clearly to develop the young core they have and to keep continuity among this team. They did just that, they stayed put retaining all their own players and only made one free agent signing in Joe Ingles.

It was a signing that raised some eyebrows. Sure, Ingles was an excellent shooter, but he was also off the Magic's timeline at 36 years old and coming off a torn ACL. It did not seem to be an impact signing -- especially at two years, $22 million.

But he has proven everyone wrong with how he has played. Ingles has proven himself to be exactly the kind of player the Magic needed to make their offense go.

His impact is not shown in his counting stats, but he is exactly the type of player who simply connects all the dots. Whatever the team needs, he does that.

He fills in the small holes the team has. Whether that is his shooting prowess, his playmaking expertise, his savvy defense or even, at times, trash-talking and getting in his opponent's head. He just is doing a perfect job in his role.

Every lineup with Ingles in it is simply better. That has been the case for much of his career as he proved to be an excellent 3-point shooter and a better-than-expected passer.

Still, people wrote Ingles off when he tore his ACL during the 2022 season. He was 34 years old at the time.

Surely his time in the league was done, right?

That is where Ingles showed his resilience and worked hard to get back from that devastating injury. He went on to sign a one-year deal last season with the Milwaukee Bucks and returned to action. He was a major contributor to the Bucks to get the top seed in the East last year.

Admittedly, Ingles said he was not quite back to full health as he continued his recovery from his injury. He said during his run with the Australian National Team at the FIBA World Cup he finally started to feel stronger.

That has rolled over into this season as Ingles has stepped up his game after adjusting to his new surroundings.

That is one of the lessons this young Magic core can learn from him. He simply never gave up and returned to be exactly the player he was before his injury.

The Magic signed Ingles to a two-year deal, with a team option on the second year. The Magic wanted his shooting for sure, but also his veteran savvy.

His role was very simple right from the start. He was going to be the connector. Both on and off the floor. His job was to simply space the floor and make plays on the basketball court. Off the court, he would be the veteran that puts his arm around the inexperienced Magic core when times get tough.

He has done exactly that for the 15-7 Magic.

In almost 19 minutes per game, he is averaging 4.7 points per game, 3.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds. Those numbers may not pop out and wow anyone. That is because his impact is much beyond the numbers he puts up.

He is shooting exactly 40.0 percent from three so far this season and 40.9 percent from the floor overall. That is a very important number in today's league and even much more for a bad three-point shooting team like the Magic.

He spaces the floor for Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner and leads the bench unit with Cole Anthony and Moe Wagner. He creates for others and is a very good ball handler in the pick-and-roll. Ingles is essentially the point guard directing traffic for the second unit and continues the Magic's trend of having multiple ball-handlers and playmakers on the floor.

He has averaged 3.5 assists in just 19 minutes per game and committed only 0.9 turnovers per game. That is very good. He has done an excellent job in running the point guard role off the bench. He has gotten the Magic in their sets and gotten them great looks.

Going deeper into the numbers, Ingles just makes everyone better. The Magic have a +10.7 net rating with Ingles on the floor which includes a stellar 120.3 points per 100 possesion offensive rating. When Ingles is off the floor, the Magic have a team-worst -0.1 net rating with a more dismal 107.1 offensive rating.

The going joke might well be that if the Magic need to fix a lineup, throwing Ingles into the mix will usually do the trick.

He is quite frankly a massive reason why Orlando has gotten off to a great start this season. He is also a huge part of why Orlando's bench has been one of the best benches in the league.

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He just makes everyone's life easier. That is just what smart players do. And Ingles is a prime example of being one of them.