You’ve probably heard this before, but could 2019-20 finally be the year that Dante Exum justifies the Utah Jazz’s long-held patience with him?
It’s the NBA offseason – a time of speculation, rumors, trades and ultimately new-look teams once the dust of the summer finally clears. Every team and all their fanbases get mixed up in it, and the Utah Jazz are no exception.
In fact, the Utah Jazz have already been one of the busiest teams thus far as they’ve pulled off the biggest trade of the offseason up to this point, save for the one that sent Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, by bringing in Mike Conley. If you’ve followed my writing at all the past few days, you’ll know all too well that I’m absolutely elated to have Conley in Utah’s mix and believe that he will be an exceptional fit with the Utah Jazz.
However, the one bit of trouble that his addition presents is that the Jazz now have next to little money available to add more talent to their roster. Outside of a meager $4.8 million Room exception and the ability to offer minimum contracts, there’s not much Utah can do to pay outside talent to join their forces.
As such, if Utah wants to get better still following the Conley trade, the most realistic way to do so would be to continue to explore the trade market. If they were to go that route, one player under contract that may make sense for them to look to move would be none other than the oft-injured Dante Exum. Exum has had his moments of brilliance, but overall his inability to stay healthy has made him a less than reliable or consistent option for the Jazz.
But, ignoring the fact that opposing teams might be hesitant to deal for Exum in the first place, it appears that the Jazz have no interest in trading him anyway as they’re still high on the young Aussie’s potential. A recent tweet from The Athletic’s Tony Jones made as much extremely clear:
A quick perusal of Tony’s Twitter feed will have several other similar nuggets, making it crystal clear – trading Dante Exum is not something the Jazz have in mind.
Now, of course, I’m sure the right situation could change Utah’s mind, but the point is Exum isn’t going to be let go even for what some may view as a slight upgrade. Jazz brass still believes in him fully and expects him to yet pan out as the player they hoped he could be when he was drafted.
I’m sure there’s a pretty large contingency of you out there who are disappointed by this news. The Jazz are obviously going big after having traded for Mike Conley. It’s hard not to wonder why then they wouldn’t be willing to continue to go big by dealing Exum, who has been unable to contribute consistently due to injury, if they really do hope to make a splash this year.
To be perfectly honest, in a lot of ways I agree. As nice as it would be to see Exum bring his excellent defense and mind-blowing athleticism for a full 82 games and a postseason, he just hasn’t yet shown himself as capable of doing so. With that being the case and the Jazz clearly aiming to capitalize on what could be a brief championship window, it could make sense to deal him now.
Instead, it’s most likely that Jazz brass will remain enamored with him and give him yet another go to see if he can finally deliver. The Jazz have been highly patient with Dante Exum through all his ups and downs and injury woes. Which begs the question – will 2019-20 finally be the year that Utah’s patience pays off?
I know, I know. Some of you who have made it this far are rolling your eyes pointing out that this has been the same question that’s been asked multiple years in a row now. Even more didn’t even open the link to this article and are probably just commenting to the contrary on the link on social media.
There are plenty of Exum naysayers and even the most optimistic of us can’t help but see why. However, the good news is that Dante is set to be healthy and ready to go for training camp. And if you believe in the law of averages, he’s had far more than his share of injuries and is well overdue for some good luck at this point.
All Exum needs to have the best season of his career is to be able to stay on the court. He was just beginning to round into spectacular form last year and if he can recapture any of that mojo, he’ll be an awesome asset for the Jazz.
The good thing is that if the organization still believes in him, it has to be for good reason, and fans should follow suit as well. Yes, his career has been disappointing up to this point but at a mere 23 years old, it’s far too early to give up on him. Not only that but his teammates also certainly have faith in him, including newcomer Mike Conley who recently had some big-time praise for the young Exum.
On the evening of the NBA Awards Show, Conley expressed a lot of excitement about his new team and the opportunity he’ll have with the Jazz. Along with that, as included in the tweet below from The Salt Lake Tribune’s Andy Larsen, Conley praised Exum as a young guy who has already done great things and noted that he’s still someone who’s going to improve a lot more.
Considering that – at least as the Jazz roster is currently constructed – Dante Exum will be filling minutes as Conley’s primary backup, it’s got to feel good for him to have the team’s new leader and point man giving him a vote of confidence before they’ve ever even played a minute together. As evidenced by the awards he received on Monday night, Conley is a terrific teammate that should help Dante’s confidence immensely.
If Exum can lean on Conley as a mentor, recapture the magic he’s shown us in prior seasons, rediscover that chemistry and amazing play he once showed in Summer League alongside Donovan Mitchell and, most importantly STAY HEALTHY, 2019-20 could be a transcendent year for him.
The Jazz have been highly patient with Exum – almost to a fault as they want to hold on to him and bet on his potential rather than deal him away for a potentially more stable piece. Dante will have a chance to reward the Jazz for their patience in a big way this season by breaking out and having the best year we’ve ever seen out of him.
Will he be able to do it? Or will we be having this exact same debate a year from now? Such is impossible to tell at this point, but if the injury gods finally smile down on Dante, then I’ll be all on board with the Utah Jazz’s decision to hold out on him a little longer. His level of play this season could very well spell the difference between the Jazz being a good team and a great one. His growth truly is that important to Utah’s lofty championship hopes.