Dante Exum isn't the only wonder from down under who's set to debut in the NBA during the 2014-15 season. According to Eurobasket.com's David Pick, Joe Ingles, a teammate of Exum's on the Australian national team, will join the Los Angeles Clippers on a one-year, guaranteed deal for the league minimum.
That, in itself, is more than Ingles originally anticipated. "I won’t be on a guaranteed contract and will be trying to make the team but that in itself is motivation for me to go in and work," Ingles told The Courier-Mail's Boti Nagy during the recently concluded 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Ingles, though, isn't just another international veteran trying to find a niche for himself in the Association. The 26-year-old native of Happy Valley (not the one in Pennsylvania, of course), who also holds a British passport, happens to be one of the most accomplished Boomers around and may well make a significant impact as a rookie come fall.
Ingles certainly knows a thing or two about making a splash right off the bat. In his first game with the South Dragons of Australia's National Basketball League, Ingles, then all of 19, scored 29 points—an NBL record for a player debut—to tip off a campaign that would conclude with him as the league's Rookie of the Year. All in all, Ingles averaged 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and three assists per game that season, per FOX Sports Pulse.
Prior to that, Ingles spent two years at the Australian Institute of Sport, the same school that produced Exum and Andrew Bogut. Ingles was preceded in stardom at AIS by Brad Newley, a second-round pick of the Houston Rockets in 2007.
Ingles was never drafted by an NBA team, though his upcoming time in L.A. won't be the first he's spent in affiliation with the Association. Ingles was a member of the Golden State Warriors' Summer League squad in 2009 and 2010 but failed to garner a suitable contract from either stint.
Instead, Ingles opted to bolster his game and his credentials overseas. He led the Dragons to what would be their first and only NBL title in 2009; the club was dissolved shortly thereafter.
From there, Ingles jumped to CB Granada in Spain's prestigious Liga ACB. He immediately emerged as one of the team's most productive players, averaging 11 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.2 minutes.
But Granada, as a whole, struggled. The squad went just 15-19 during the 2009-10 campaign and soon found itself unable to afford Ingles amidst its crippling debt. As a result, Granada offloaded Ingles to Barcelona Regal just seven games into the 2010-11 season.
Ingles tasted plenty of team success with the Blaugrana, even as his own output declined. Barcelona won five domestic competitions and contended in the Euroleague during each of Ingles' three seasons with the club. In none of those campaigns, though, did Ingles average more than 6.3 points or 20.1 minutes per game, per DraftExpress.
That didn't really change this past season, either, when Ingles made his way to Maccabi Tel Aviv. He put up 6.8 points per game during the regular season in Israel, 2.9 points in the playoffs and 6.4 points amidst Maccabi's surprising run to the Euroleague crown under David Blatt.
In Ingles' defense, European club basketball isn't exactly conducive to putting up big numbers. The team-oriented, sharing-is-caring style of play that the San Antonio Spurs have perfected was about as close as any NBA squad has yet come to replicating the continental basketball culture on American shores.
That being said, the Australian national team has long been the driving force behind Ingles' career ascension, and this year was no different.
Ingles first appeared on the international stage at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with an 11-point fourth quarter against Team USA. His star rose another step at the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey, where he put up 10.3 points, three rebounds and 2.2 assists on the Boomers' behalf.
Come 2012, Ingles was a bona fide cornerstone of the Australian team. He put up an impressive line of 15 points, five rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting a scorching-hot 63 percent from the field. Ingles bested even that efficiency at this year's World Cup, where he nailed 70.8 percent of his field goals, including 66.7 percent of his threes—albeit during an abbreviated run for the Aussies.
Still, Ingles has clearly come a long enough way to warrant more than a tryout in the NBA. He hit better than 40 percent of his threes in Europe last year, thereby quelling lingering concerns about his perimeter shot.
He's always been a good athlete who can create off the bounce, be it for himself or for his teammates. Now that he can shoot, Ingles brings to the table the sort of skill set with which he can become another valuable "3-and-D" guy. Here's how then-Australian coach (and current Philadelphia 76ers head man) Brett Brown described Ingles' game back in 2012 (via The Daily Telegraph's Jim Tucker):
"Joe's got a body like (Detroit Pistons' small forward) Tayshaun Prince. He's long, left-handed, multi-faceted at guard or small forward, he's stepped up in defence to take personal pride in guarding people and you've seen his competitive spirit here."
Does that mean Ingles is going to be a key cog for the Clippers this season?
He certainly could. L.A.'s wing rotation has thinned somewhat with the Jared Dudley trade and wasn't all that exciting to begin with. Beyond Matt Barnes, who's had his own issues with inconsistency over the years, the Clippers will count on a host of youngsters (Reggie Bullock, C.J. Wilcox) and fringe types (Chris Douglas-Roberts, DeAndre Liggins) to fill out their wing rotation.
That may well afford Ingles enough opportunity to prove his worth in the NBA. Then again, on a Clippers club that's already so close to championship contention, Ingles will probably have to work that much harder and shine that much brighter for anyone to take notice.
But Ingles hasn't had much trouble garnering attention yet. Who's to say that will change now?
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