Utah Jazz fans have been understandably excited about their team’s No. 5 overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, Dante Exum. The Australian has the size, speed and charisma befitting a future superstar in the league and the Jazz are a team that has been lacking in that department. However, while there is plenty to like about Exum, Jazz fans should be cautious in their optimism and also patient with the young guard when he struggles.
Thus far in FIBA play, Exum’s contributions for Australia have been meager at best. Through two World Cup games, he has played a combined 24 minutes and is two-for-eight from the field with four points and four assists to his credit. Even during summer league with the Jazz, Exum’s conditioning issues caused him to struggle in the second halves of games and resulted in some less than amazing statistical efforts.
Fans would be wise not to judge the 19-year old on these individual performances and instead find solace in the small steps that Exum is able to take from week to week, month to month, season to season. The sports media can be overly reactionary and hyperbolic in its assessment of what takes place during a given night or game, but Exum’s path to success is a marathon, not the 100-meter dash.
As Exum continues to adjust to the pro game, there will be rough times. The guard line as a whole is a work in progress for the Jazz as they remain firmly behind another developing player and their starting point-man last season, Trey Burke. He and Exum’s on-court chemistry probably won’t be where it needs to be on day one. They’ll get in each other’s way, they’ll have rough nights, there will be stretches where it seems the team can’t win with them together.
The key for Utah fans will be to remain vigilant. Good things come to those who wait and Exum is a guy worth waiting for. It might be frustrating to watch him in World Cup play now, but good things are in store. We mustn’t get too caught up in the daily highs or lows, but instead respect the journey and look for progress. Exum seems like a hard worker and a quality individual. If he can put those attributes to good use, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a quality basketball player.