Last season there was something missing from the NBA. Dante Exum was not playing due to his knee injury.
When Dante Exum was taken with the fifth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz I have to admit that I knew little about him. Fortunately I was not the only one. Exum was a mystery man, a talented one but a mystery man none the less.
Exum had a reasonable rookie year. He became a starter midway through the season but was still learning at the time. He started to perform really well, especially defensively, helping the Jazz almost make the Playoffs.
Then it happened. Exum was playing for Australia and he tore his ACL on a drive to the basket.
This seemingly innocuous incident would keep the Jazz man out for a full season. I was devastated for the man, I can’t imagine how he was feeling.
However, in true testament to the young Australians character he has come back a better player. If you are willing to learn then there is no time wasted in the NBA.
Exum is a quality defender already, he is long and able to harrass the ball carrier with that length.
However, this season Exum is showing more offensive nous. The first six games of the season, the jazz played without their best player, Gordon Hayward, due to a broken finger. In that time, Exum averaged 6.7 points per game playing as the backup to George Hill who had a blinding start to the season.
However, Hill got injured after playing one game with Hayward. The Jazz tried Shelvin Mack as the starting point guard for two games before Exum got the job for the next five. How has Exum responded to this, by averaging 9.4 points per game. This compares very favorably with the 4.8 season average he had in his rookie year
Of these games, Utah has won two and lost three but Exum has had a positive plus/minus in all but the last game against the Houston Rockets.
The run of injuries has actually helped Exum cement a spot in the rotation so when the Jazz get all of their players back, Exum has probably moved up to number two in the point guard depth chart, behind Hill.
When the Jazz get Hill back and Alex Burks, Exum can swing between the two guard spots due to his height, making the Jazz a dangerous team on penetration. Hill, Exum and Hayward can all push the tempo and drive against almost any opponent.
The season is only 14 games old. That is very young in and NBA season which lasts 82 games plus playoffs. When the Jazz get all their troops back, they will be a dangerous team, both offensively and defensively that should go deep into the Playoffs.
Dante Exum will hopefully help unlock Playoff success for a team that has been starved of it for years.