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Could Joe Ingles Be Part of the Trail Blazers’ Future?

The Blazers could use veteran help at forward, but Ingles is a free agent this year.

Utah Jazz v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2021-22 season has come to an end. The summer ahead will hold plenty of decisions for the club. They put 27 different players on the court during the regular season. Not all are still with the team, but enough are that there’s no way the Blazers could retain them all...if they even wanted to. A 27-55 record would argue against a high retention rate, but asterisks abound despite the dismal performance.

Into this question-filled swamp stride Dave Deckard and Dia Miller with their annual review of Portland’s roster. They talk about each player, then decide whether they would keep or yeet (toss) the player in the coming year. Performance, fit, age, salary, and team priorities/direction are all open for discussion.

Today we tackle a player who hasn’t suited up for the Blazers even once: Joe Ingles. The long-time Utah Jazz forward came to Portland at the end of the mid-season trade flurry, courtesy of a three-way deal with the Jazz and San Antonio Spurs. The Blazers also acquired Elijah Hughes in the exchange. Hughes played afterwards, but a knee injury kept Ingles on the sidelines for the remainder of the year.

The 34-year-old forward appeared in 45 games in Utah this season, averaging 7.2 points, 3/5 assists, and 2.9 rebounds in 24.9 minutes. He shot 40.4% from the floor, 34.7% from the three-point arc, both career lows. In 2020-21 he shot 45% from distance, 49% overall. He’s prized as a heady, all-around veteran who can hit from range. He’s also an unrestricted free agent this summer. Would it make sense for the Blazers to keep him?

Dave: Ok, this is a tough one. How do you judge a player who’s never suited up for the team? I guess track record with Utah. Plus Ingles seems engaged with Portland, if social media is any indication. What are your feelings on retaining him?

Dia: I love the banter with Joe Ingles and the team. He absolutely seems to be locked in here. His post about his daughter choosing a Portland jersey for sports day at school was enough to make any Portland fan love him off the court. This is tough for me. I love the idea of Ingles, but where does he fit in with the roster? Does he? That’s really hard to know. So tell me this, Dave. What are the options? If he doesn’t stay in Portland, can he be used in a trade?

Dave: He can’t, as his contract is expiring. And here’s more fun news: he’ll carry a $19.5 million cap hold into the summer. Unless the Blazers renounce him (in which case they lose all cap obligation for him) or re-sign him (in which case his new contract amount goes on the cap instead of the hold), they’ll have $19.5 million in space locked up against the possibility that they might sign him.

Up until now, we’ve been talking about players like Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons, whose cap holds are smaller than their likely new deals. Portland will likely want to wait as long as possible before committing to those two. Ingles is the inverse. If they want him, they’ll want to sign him early and cheap.

You’ll likely be able to tell their summer plan—or at least something about it—based on what they do with Ingles. If they re-sign him early, they’re probably keeping everybody significant. If they release him early, they might have designs on clearing cap space, which would require more releases. If they just let him sit, it’s the same, in essence, as re-signing him early.

The question is, do you want him? He’s a career 41% three-point shooting forward. There are worse things for the Blazers to have on the roster right now. He’ll turn 35 at the start of the season, though. It’s definitely a “build for today/win now” move. What do you think?

Dia: I think that’s exactly the mode the Trail Blazers should be in. Win now. Or at least, win within the next couple of years. I don’t think that’s a secret. So in my opinion, Joe Ingles could play a big part in that. Honestly, Joe Ingles and Damian Lillard would be a potentially fantastic combination. Ingles brings a lot of veteran experience, and he seems like he could actually be a really great fit in Portland.

Dave: The cost, then, is that you’re running back the same team, with Ingles and whomever they get with the draft pick (or whomever they acquire in a draft pick trade) and they’re done...not just for this year, but capped up for a while. Granted, I’ve argued that keeping salary slots active for trades is more practical than saving cap space for the Blazers right now, but unless Ingles comes really cheap, this may be a step too far, even for me. You’re going to have Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, and Anfernee Simons locked into multi-year deals, Josh Hart inheriting a player option, and Nassir Little coming up on restricted free agency next year. That’s a lot of dough committed to a cake that isn’t that spectacular. Is that really a championship lineup? I think Ingles could fit too, but they’re not really getting better. It looks more and more like committing to mediocrity. Help talk me out of this, Dia! It’s what I see.

Dia: I think that’s a better lineup than a lot of people give credit for. It’s amazing how quickly we forget just how good those players are. That’s some solid manpower on that roster you just named. And truthfully, a lot of that comes down to how creative can the front office get? If they don’t keep Ingles, how much of a difference maker of a player can they get instead? Someone who fits better than he does? That’s available and acquirable? I don’t know, Dave. This roster seems like It could compete. I also don’t think there may be any way to create a solidly contending team in this off season without the pick we lost from the Pelicans. We don’t have a lot of wiggle room. So then, do we keep someone like Ingles and try to do the best we can with that lineup and work on a plan moving forward? Truth is; I think this roster could be better than we think.

Dave: I think it’s typical Blazers: look great in two week stretches, but ultimately can’t put it together. There’s two ways I think Ingles could make sense, though. Either on a super-cheap contract or one of limited duration, like two years with a team option. If it’s going to be expensive or long-term, I just can’t see keeping him.

What about you, readers? Do you believe in this team enough to re-sign Joe Ingles? It’s probably not going to make a huge difference to their cap space this year, unless they have to live with his cap hold instead of a new contract. Do you go go for it? Register your opinion in the comment section below!

Our story so far...

Anfernee Simons: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Jusuf Nurkic: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Ben McLemore: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep

CJ Elleby: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Yeet

Nassir Little: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Trendon Watford: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Drew Eubanks: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Justise Winslow: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep

Josh Hart: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Greg Brown III: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Keon Johnson: Dave—Keep, Dia—Keep

Joe Ingles: Dave—Yeet, Dia—Keep