Joe Ingles Is Nearly A Perfect Kyle Anderson Replacement

Photo Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Connelly hoped to retain Kyle Anderson, who helped the Minnesota Timberwolves rise to the Western Conference Finals, once he hit free agency this summer. However, the NBA’s second-apron restraints made that dream a fallacy.

The Timberwolves entered the offseason as the NBA’s most expensive team, $6,484,442 over the second apron of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, which bears costly but manageable penalties and a high tax bill for the owners. The Wolves had a handful of free agents, but the top seven players in Chris Finch’s rotation from the 2023-24 season were all under contract.

Anderson’s future had the most uncertainty among Minnesota’s pending free agents. He’s coming off an up-and-down 2023-24 season, during which he made $9.2 million. Anderson shot 22.9% from three-point range but was a versatile defender capable of filling backup point guard minutes. It was his second and eventual final season in Minnesota. His first was one of the best campaigns in his career. He averaged 9.4 points with 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists on 50.9% from the floor and 41% from three (1.5 attempts). Finch said multiple times that Anderson saved the season because he started in place of the injured Karl-Anthony Towns 42 times and unlocked Rudy Gobert on offense when nobody else could.

“We would love to have Kyle back,” Connelly said during his exit interview. “He’s not just a great player; he is a great guy. His voice and toughness are hugely important to who we are. You never know what is going to happen or not happen, but we would love to have Kyle back. We are not here without Kyle.”

The 6’9” forward was interested in returning to the Twin Cities for on and off-court reasons. Still, the Wolves were likely to pursue players who would take a veteran’s minimum contract, which is around $1 to 3 million. After Kyle signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Golden State Warriors, it became obvious that he was not close to remaining in Minnesota. Because the Wolves were over the second apron, Connelly and his staff could not offer him the same dollar amount as the Warriors without increasing the tax bill and further limiting other possible off-season.

As a result, the Wolves had to find a replacement for Anderson, who played the third-most minutes off the bench last season. Slow-Mo is a unique player, hence the nickname, and it isn’t easy to replace the positives he offers a team. However, Connelly managed to fill his void with a player nicknamed Slow-Mo Joe. Although he may differ from Anderson in certain ways, he’s exactly what the Wolves need after losing their versatile veteran.

Less than 24 hours after Anderson landed in the Bay, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Timberwolves and Joe Ingles had agreed to a one-year deal. A few days later, the team made the acquisition of the 37-year-old official.

According to Spotrac, Ingles’ contract with the Wolves is a veteran’s minimum, and the team will be responsible for paying him $2,087,519 next season, while Anderson will make $8,780,488 in Golden State. It wasn’t a splashy signing, and fans had mixed feelings about it, but Ingles was one of Minnesota’s best available free-agent options at a cheap price tag.

Ingles signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the Orlando Magic last year before the team declined his team option this summer. Like the Wolves, Orlando needed a versatile veteran capable of leading a young team in the locker room. Ingles only averaged 4.4 points but shot 43.5% from three (2.4 attempts) while dishing out three assists and grabbing two boards over 68 regular season games. He was a steady force and played a role in the Magic’s first playoff run since 2020.

Ingles is 6’9”, but he isn’t an athletically gifted player. He doesn’t rely on impressive hops or the ability to blow by his defender, and that may be why he can play at a relatively high level so deep into his NBA career. Floor spacing is one of Ingles’ many strengths throughout his lengthy career. It has never failed him and will prove invaluable next year in Minnesota.

The lefty was one of Orlando’s most reliable shooters last season. He led the team in three-point percentage (43.5%, 3.8% higher than the next closest player). The raw stats display everything we need to know in that regard.

Percentage of total shot attempts, per Cleaning the Glass:

  • Corner 3s: 15% (44th percentile)
  • Non-corner 3s: 54% (91st percentile)
  • All 3s: 69% (88th percentile)

Field goal percentage, per Cleaning the Glass:

  • Corner 3s: 50% (95th percentile)
  • Non-corner 3s: 43% (93rd percentile)
  • All 3s: 44% (95th percentile)

Additional stats, per NBA.com:

  • Catch and shoot FG%: 53.3%
  • 0 dribbles FG%: 53.8%
  • Left corner 3 FG%: 33.3% (15 attempts)
  • Right corner 3 FG%: 63.2% (19 attempts)
  • Above the break 3 FG%: 42.4% (125 attempts)

Ingles separates himself from Anderson as a three-point shooter. Kyle was often a positive offensive presence, but he needed the ball in his hands to be effective. Chris Finch could not space him off-ball because the defense would not rotate out on Anderson. On certain teams – such as the Warriors, who have the greatest shooter of all time – being strictly a pick-and-roll threat is fine. However, the Wolves need all the spacing they can get around Anthony Edwards, Towns, and Gobert.

Ingles has a unique shot release. Instead of dipping the ball, he brings it straight up to the left and catapults it to the rim. The form is unique, but it’s quick and very effective, especially in catch-and-shoot situations.

Last season, Ingles attempted 78.6% of his threes above the break, which includes the wings and the top of the key. Meanwhile, he only attempted 27.2% of his shots from the corners. An effective and efficient shooter you can deploy off the ball allows your offense to attack freely and rewards good ball movement when the defense collapses. When Ingles sat above the break, Paolo Banchero or another of Orlando’s isolation players frequently drove downhill. When the defense collapsed, they kicked the ball back out to Joe, and the result was, more often than not, a nothing-but-net triple.

Opponents use myriad coverages on Edwards throughout games. They often start with single coverage and sometimes work to double or even triple teams. Opposing defenses know his gravity, particularly when driving into the paint or working in isolation.

Ingles is no stranger to playing alongside ball-dominant stars like Donovan Mitchell, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Banchero. Being able to be unproblematic on offense and shoot over 50% in catch-and-shoot situations were primary reasons Ingles had a valuable role in Orlando last year, and the same will be true this season.

Beyond just the shooting, Ingles is a viable floor general.

Standing at 6’8”, he has the incredibly unique ability to be the screener and ball handler in screening situations. Only a few players in the NBA can do that at a high level, and Ingles and Anderson are among the few.

Ingles registered a 40.1 assist ratio (the number of assists per 100 possessions) last season, the best amongst forwards who played 60 or more regular season games. He had a somewhat limited role, averaging 17.2 minutes, but he made the most of his opportunities. Turnovers were a weak point for Ingles. He had the fifth-highest turnover ratio (13.2) amongst forwards who played 60 or more games. That figure means he turned the ball over on 13.2% of his possessions last season, which isn’t a good rate.

However, the high turnover percentage should not detract from what the Wolves get with Ingles. He’s a willing passer who excels in PnR situations and will take the pressure off the guards during prolonged stretches, similar to what Anderson did for the Wolves.

Less than a week after free agency opened, Monte Morris signed with the Phoenix Suns, and Jordan McLaughlin signed with the Sacramento Kings. Both deals are veteran’s minimum contracts, which Minnesota would have been able to match. However, the Wolves hope Rob Dillingham makes an immediate impact after trading up to No. 8 to get him. Morris and McLaughlin have a better chance of playing a bigger role with their new teams.

The Wolves still have an open roster spot, and Dillingham is the only true backup point guard on the roster. Connelly and Co. can still add another player, but Dillingham will likely be the backup to Mike Conley immediately. That’s an incredibly challenging role for a 19-year-old who started in only one game for Kentucky to take on in his rookie year. Time will tell if he is ready, but transitioning to the pros will not be seamless. Even if the Wolves bring on another guard between now and the start of the season, Ingles’ passing and ability to operate with the ball in his hands will be crucial in making Dillingham’s transition as smooth as possible.

Losing Anderson will hurt the Wolves, particularly on defense. Still, Minnesota’s front office replaced him with a similar player who excelled at what the team needed the most last season. Ingles is the oldest player on the team and often won’t stand out in the box score. However, he plays the game correctly and is upbeat on and off the court. Ingles has been a fan favorite during every stop. Slow-Mo may have sparked a sexual revolution in Minnesota, but Slow-Mo Joe may inspire people to make prideful t-shirts and continue to do roll calls on social media.

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Photo Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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