The Utah Jazz were overjoyed when Dante Exum fell to them at #5 during the 2014 NBA Draft. By many full-time NBA Draft analysts he is projected to be one of the few players in this class with star potential. That's not just me saying that, but people like Chad Ford and other people who have watched hours and hours more of basketball than I have. I like to think Dante Exum could be a star. The Utah Jazz are currently bereft of one. And the pathway to stardom for a Top 5 lottery pick seems to be pretty well laid out:
- Get drafted high
- Get drafted by a team that has immediate space for you (little competition at your primary position)
- Play a lot of risk free minutes
- Play your game
- Accumulate stats
- Get invited to All-Star Weekend and participate in the Rookie / Soph Rising Stars game
- Perform well there under bright lights
- Continue building up your national fan base (including being on ESPN, TNT)
- Make some national ads
- Be featured by the NBA in their ads
- Continue playing your game
- Hopefully win Rookie of the Year
From the ROY award you get more recognition from the fans, and more respect from the refs. That makes it easier to excel on the court. Of course, you have to keep working on your game, playing your game, and playing well. But if you meet most of those bullet-ed conditions you are well on your way to being a star. There are a lot of star point guards who have done just that in recent years. Michael Carter-Williams, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Stephen Curry, and Kyrie Irving are recent examples of people who have crossed off a lot of the above things from their rookie season lists.
Not every star point guard has the same path to the NBA. And not all star point guards have the same path to stardom. But it's hard to argue against the general principal of "get drafted to a team that can and will play you a lot of minutes, play your game, and be visible."
The other aspect of stardom, the one that we assume now, is that if you are a star you deserve to be one based upon on court production. This is why, for all the love we have for them, we cannot call Derrick Favors or Gordon Hayward stars right now. As the Uncharted series of video games / user controlled movies tells us, "...greatness from small beginnings." So let's look at ALL the players 6'6 and under who had rookies seasons between 1999 and today, and managed to average 4.5 apg. It's a 26 player list in full, and only one non-point guard, Dwyane Wade, made it.
We don't need him in this experiment, so we can remove him and be left with a 25 point guard list. And what a list it is:
|Rookie Point Guard||Tm||Season||GS||G||S%||MPG|
Yeah. Some of these guys were in great situations. I don't think Dante, on a team with both Trey Burke and Alec Burks, is. In fact, only one of these guys went to a team where another dude, better than him at PG, was already starting -- and that is Darren Collison. You could argue that another was Jose Calderon, but I don't know if T.J. Ford is considered a star or not. Beyond those two, everyone else went to a team that was smart enough to a) play them big minutes, and b) not eff it up by playing them few minutes or starting them at SG or some other humbling maneuver that seems to backfire every single time.
The average for these 25 players is 31.6 mpg as a rookie. Obviously that's skewed a bit, thanks Lillard.
I don't think it will be easy to get Dante on the floor that much. I don't want him to be below average though, but it's obvious that he shouldn't be starting. (Unless he's a lot better right now than I think he is.) The Standard Deviation for this group's MPG is +/- 4.7 MPG. So that's a real range of 26.8 MPG to 36.3 MPG. I think this is a reasonable range to make sure that your player is on the right track, and provided he is healthy, getting enough minutes and getting on Sports Center enough.
If you eyeball it, the range I would really want him to be in is between 28.0 mpg (Collison) and 32.5 mpg (Trey Burke / Russell Westbrook ). I think if he gets on the floor around the upper level of that range then we'll all be very happy.
"But minutes =/= development!"
"But minutes don't make bad players into stars!"
Yeah, I know. There's a whole podcast you can listen to almost every morning if you want to be 'educated' down that path. Players themselves say that getting on the floor is what helps your games the most. And this isn't about purely being better. This is about being a star. And as we've seen, as a point guard being a star is about getting a lot of minutes on bad teams early in your career, and getting your numbers.
Dante isn't going to be a star playing 20 MPG watching John Lucas III get the ball in his hands.
And the Jazz won't get their star if they stifle Dante Exum. Make the 25 win season and four years of Tyrone Corbin worth it -- play Dante sufficient minutes to help his development and assist in his rise to stardom. It will be worth it. Some people think individual awards don't matter. They do in the NBA, because if you win them the refs look the other way on iffy plays, and the league goes out of their way to help you and make your life easier / more comfortable.
It's a league of name and face recognition. If we have a very bright star, the NBA can't pretend we don't exist. And the first real step to getting that star is to play him. For me, I would be happy if he averages 31ish MPG in his rookie year. Trey Burke averaged 32.3 MPG last season. But he didn't have any competition for playing time. Dante, unfortunately, went to a team where that will be his first real challenge to stardom.