Last night, the Utah Jazz made their debut at the NBA‘s Las Vegas Summer League. The team struggled to shoot the ball, going 3-for-30 from three-point range en route to a 74-70 defeat at the hands of a Philadelphia 76ers team that was missing center Nerlens Noel. But despite the loss, some bad turnovers and the kind of shooting woes one might expect from a team playing in its first game of the summer, rookie Dante Exum gave Jazz fans plenty to be excited about.
In 27 minutes of play, the Australian was the team’s plus-minus leader at +9, posting a line of 10 points, three rebounds, three assists, one steal and only one turnover. It wasn’t the massive, 30-plus-point explosion we saw in the preceding game from Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris, but it was a steady performance in which Exum displayed the court vision and killer first step befitting a potential superstar.
Coming into the NBA Draft, people raved about the 18-year-old’s speed. What we’re discovering now is that he also has the ability to change his pace and freeze defenders with an array of great hesitation maneuvers. Exum also showed his athleticism when Trey Burke found him on the alley-oop for a two-handed, reverse jam. He will need to build consistency with his jump shot, but his form isn’t bad at all and he was able to connect from deep in the final moments as his team fought for the win.
Defensively, he will need to continue to work and get better, but the effort was there. He seemed engaged on defense, if not slightly lost on the odd occasion. He did display some quick hands after committing his only turnover when he was able to swipe the ball away and take it to the rack for a slam.
The other standouts of the game for the Jazz were Malcolm Thomas and Rudy Gobert. Thomas was the recipient of some nice feeds from Exum and was able to finish hard at the rim. He ended the game with a team-high 13 points to go with eight boards. Gobert had some great moments on both ends of the floor, blocking shots, deflecting passes, finishing with the ball and also throwing a nifty pass. He finished with a game-leading nine boards and also had 11 points.
The team ultimately lost as Burke struggled to shoot at times and Rodney Hood had a really rough go of it from behind the arc (only making 1-of-10); but in the summer, player development is the ordre du jour, and Exum looks to be coming along nicely.