With the 5th pick of the NBA draft the Utah Jazz selected mystery-man and Australian phenom Dante Exum. Exum is a gigantic 6’6″ PG who has wowed scouts in what small sample sizes they have on him with his first-step quickness and, of course, incredible length. In a lead-up to the draft that featured a fair amount of flip-flopping, Exum was at times considered going as high as first overall, based on the brief glimpses we had of his potential.
Come summerleague, that looked a little ridiculous in retrospect as Exum appeared winded and out of shape, as well as shooting 31% from the field over 4 games and having a .9 assist to turnover ratio. While he did show off a couple of big plays, it seems clear he has a long way to go in getting ready to take on the PGs of the West. What’s more is that Exum may clash with the Jazz’s 1st round selection last year, Trey Burke. With two PGs in two consecutive years, Jazz executives either believe they can move one of them for a significant return or that they will be able to play off one another in a two guard lineup like the Suns from last year (or the Knicks in 2012!!). This didn’t go well during summerleague either, when Burke revealed he felt uncomfortable playing off the ball and seems himself as more of a primary ball-handler. Whoops.
The Jazz’s other selection was the excellent Rodney Hood who will join Alec Burks to form an excellent slashing duo that should benefit from the passing of either guard. When taken with an intriguing young frontcourt of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and now RUDY GOBERT (the rake-thin 7 footer who had an excellent summer league and shut down the Gasol brothers while playing for the French during the FIBA World Cup) the Jazz have a lot of talent going forward. The one curious side note here is that the Jazz moved both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap last summer to allow their young guys to develop, but Favors and Kanter actually spent LESS time on the floor together than when they were backing up the two All-Star caliber big men.
The final, and most important, move of the summer was Jazz executives matching the offer that Charlotte gave to Gordon Hayward. That would be a 4-year $63 million contract and represents a fairly sizable commitment to the 5th year player. Hayward is a very versatile swingman capable of averaging a 15-5-5, as well as being one of the best players in the league at the chase-down block, but he now has some very big expectations in Utah.
The Jazz only managed to win 25 games last year and likely won’t improve on that number by much, but this is a team that is headed in the right direction. Until they actually get there, though, and until they get some new uniforms this is going to be a team I will be largely ignoring in 2014.
X-Factor= Trey Burke
Like it or not, if one of their guards is going to be playing off the ball, its Burke. I know we’ve only seen a tiny sample size of Exum, but the guy looks like a miserable shooter and Burke is very capable of knocking down 3s. A lot of this team’s success will boil down to whether these two guys are able to co-exist and thrive together, and that may start with a willingness from Burke to accept a secondary role.