In the Las Vegas Summer League, No. 5 overall pick Dante Exum didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his play for the Utah Jazz. There were glimpses of brilliance — an athletic steal here, a pass through traffic there, the alley-oop, reverse jam that kicked things off, etc. However, limited 5-on-5 play during the past year and conditioning issues took their toll on the rookie, preventing him from showing all that he can do.
Now playing for his native Australia in preparation for the FIBA World Cup, it’s looking as though Exum will finally be able to put his talents on display. In the team’s second exhibition game against Ukraine, Exum paced his squad in a blowout victory. His line for the night was impressive: 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, zero turnovers and a steal in only 19 minutes of play.
Exum was Australia’s leading scorer in the contest and his seven first quarter points helped push the Boomers to their big lead. Not only is it a performance that alleviates concerns over the ankle injury he suffered in the team’s first game, it’s one that gives Jazz fans a sign of things to come for Exum in his NBA career.
He and Trey Burke will have to work on building a rapport next season, and as a 19-year-old rookie, there are going to be nights when he looks a lot like the Exum of summer league, but there is reason to be excited about his future. The Utah faithful should not be dissuaded by his struggles last month in the Vegas league.
From the jump, Exum will have elite speed and size for his position. His court vision is also special. That jump shot will need to show improvement, but there’s a solid foundation there for what could become a dangerous arrow in Exum’s quiver. His experience in the FIBA tournament could be important in his development, giving him a chance to play more high-level, competitive basketball while working through the stamina issue.
By the time training camp rolls around, the Jazz could be looking at a very different player. Confident, conditioned and ready to set the world on fire.