2 NBA free agents who could replace Joe Ingles for the Milwaukee Bucks

Apr 7, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Milwaukee Bucks signed Australian forward Joe Ingles in July to a one-year, $6.5 million contract, using their taxpayer midlevel exception. With that contract now soon expiring, Ingles is set to enter free agency this summer, opening up some questions for the Bucks’ front office.

Milwaukee now stands to lose a lot of its dynamic and bench production with the departure of Ingles. He averaged 6.9 points per game, which was second on the Bucks’ bench just after Bobby Portis. He was a steadying playmaker off the bench who could create his own shot. He was also one of Milwaukee’s more efficient floor spacers, having shot 40.1 percent from 3-point range in the regular season. Those are things the Milwaukee Bucks have been in short supply of these days.

The Bucks have a projected salary of $221 million for the 2023-24 season. They’re over the cap by $27 million and have no cap space in the 2023 off-season. This likely means they will need to use either their mid-level exception or bi-annual exception to sign free agents. But the problem is that access to those options is still murky under the new CBA.

This only means that Ingles’ production will be difficult to replace. The Bucks could look to the free agent market to find a replacement, or they could turn to one of their young players. However, it will be tough to find someone who can provide the same level of production as Ingles.

Here are three free agents who can replace what Ingles brought to the table.

No. 1 – Justise Winslow

Justise Winslow is one equally versatile player who can contribute in a variety of ways. He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent after his 2022-23 season was cut short due to an ankle injury. He played in 29 games for the Portland Trail Blazers, averaging 6.8 points, five rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He shot 40.9 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from 3-point range.

Winslow is a good defender, rebounder, and passer. He also has some ability to create his own shot and create opportunities for others, although the former has begun to slowly diminish as he’s racked up injuries over the years. But he does stand at 6-foot-6 and is also a bit of a hybrid defender, which has always been a constant in his game. This makes him a valuable asset to any team, as he can be used in a variety of ways in the same way Ingles has.

Considering he bowed out of this past season due to injury again, the Bucks could sign him to the same cheap, prove-it deal that they used to snag Ingles. He would certainly need to be willing to play at a discount, but the promise of playing for a contending team next to Antetokounmpo might be all the Bucks need to pull him away from Portland. His extensive injury history is also likely to make other teams think twice before giving him an offer.

Though Joe Ingles lacked any sort of burst or lateral quickness at this stage in his career, he was a more solid defender than the eye test would show. Where he lacked hustle and energy, he played with craftiness and size that allowed him to guard multiple positions relatively decently. While the eye test says he’s prone to get beat off the dribble, matchup data on NBA.com/stats paints a much different story. When Ingles was the closest defender, guards only converted on 38.5 percent of their shot attempts.

This is where Winslow can fill in the Ingles-shaped hole the most, as he was actually a very good defender in his own right as well. Per PBP Stats, opponents would score 5.3 points fewer per 100 possessions when Winslow played versus when he was on the bench.

Winslow could look to fill in Ingles’ playmaking duties as well. According to Cleaning the Glass, he assisted on 18 percent of the Blazers’ made baskets whenever he was on the floor. That puts him at the 84th percentile in his position on that stat. He also registered an excellent 1.15 assist-to-usage ratio, good for the 95th percentile.