There have been many words written in the past 24 hours on Dante Exum. Unfortunately, those words have not been praise of his great play, but lack of time to play for better or for worse. Shelvin Mack has usurped him in the rotation and Dante Exum has picked up a DNP-CD, in the previous two games he didn’t even crack 10 minutes. He’s not hurt. He’s healthy, but the perennial 3rd point guard, Shelvin Mack, has taken his spot.
Yes, we’ve already been down this road before. Before it was Exum being displaced by Shelvin Mack, we had Alec Burks displaced by insert wing player signed off the street here and Gordon Hayward being displaced by Josh Howard. At that time there was a close to impossible task of developing two big men who at the time were behind to All-Star big men, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. There were times that Francisco Elson was getting minutes above Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter all in the name of “they’ve got to earn it.” [Ed Note: Rudy Gobert played as much as Brandon Rush did, he couldn’t ‘earn minutes’ either.]
Exum's the former fifth pick of the draft, a young 21, and has acres of potential with his size and quickness. Mack, at 26, is a finished product.
But with the acquisition of Hill, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw, the Jazz signaled their move to a win-now team. It appears that's what's going on now.
I'll also say this: there's no longer time to lose games now to play young guys because of Hayward's impending free agency. If Hayward leaves in the offseason, the whole Jazz project takes several steps back.
Ben Dowsett of Basketball Insiders thinks it’s “simple math”:
This is funny, but I've also seen this sentiment expressed in seriousness, and it's a tad silly. No need to "defend" simple math. https://t.co/BYr2Yg87Lo— Ben Dowsett (@Ben_Dowsett) November 29, 2016
Quin Snyder doesn’t have to defend simple math. See guys?
Shelvin Mack > Dante Exum
But it’s not simple math and the Utah Jazz can be in win now mode AND still develop Dante Exum. The strategist in me dies inside because anyone with an opinion on this matter is making this a zero sum game. The Utah Jazz can either win and not play Exum or they can lose and play Exum. Developing players and winning is not a zero sum game. We’ve just been accustomed to believing that because of the Tyrone Corbin years.
But here’s some not simple math. Investment. Right now most media outlets are asking this question “Is Shelvin Mack better than Dante Exum now?” But that’s the wrong question. Hence everyone is getting the wrong answer to this problem. It’s the easiest question to ask because it’s the easiest to answer. Is Shelvin Mack better than Dante Exum now? Yes. But that’s the wrong question. The right question is “With proper development what will Dante Exum become?” Now is that simple math? The equation has changed.
Shelvin Mack < Dante Exum + (Improvement*3 years) + (Experience*3 years) +(Responsibility on Playoff Team*3 years) - (Bad Play While Learning*3 years)
It’s not simple math. If someone is boiling down the choice of whether to develop a player, especially with a top 5 lottery talent, to if an NBA veteran is better than him than he doesn’t deserve minutes is a simpleton that shouldn’t be consulted with NBA matters.
Now does that mean Quin Snyder is the simpleton? No. He’s privy to things in practice we’re not able to see, but head coaches make mistakes. Jerry Sloan was unfairly difficult to rookies during his early years as a coach which made the Utah Jazz with Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Paul Millsap, and Wesley Matthews so jarring. I think this is might be a time Quin Snyder is allowing a past bias, he coached Shelvin in the past, cloud his judgement in the present.
Now is there a precedent for developing a lottery talent AND winning? Yes. The Spurs. The very model Dennis Lindsey wants to copy. The most recent example is Kawhi Leonard. Before he was dominating the league he was getting a healthy dose of NBA minutes and not being too terribly efficient during them. Take a look at his first 3 years.
Not exactly the most compelling things you’d expect to see, but by year 3 they light started to turn on. Coincidentally, that year they one the NBA championship with Kawhi being a key contributor even making the all-defense 2nd team. You see while his offensive stats don’t light up a stat sheet, he had elite defense. Something early Kawhi and Dante Exum have in common. The unfortunate thing for Dante Exum is being a playmaker on the offensive side of the ball takes time. Kawhi wasn’t relied upon to initiate the offense. As the point guard Exum doesn’t get that luxury.
If you take a look at Kawhi Leonard’s second year, he took a step back in some categories. His minutes went up but his efficiency went down. He averaged about the same stats but with more minutes. But that year he was experimenting more. Learning who he was as a player. That’s what the Utah Jazz should expect out of Exum.
Shelvin Mack ought to be Exum’s parachute, not his millstone. If Exum is having trouble, take him out, teach him, then put him back in. He watched 82 games last season, he doesn’t need more from the sidelines.
For those who say the Utah Jazz are in winning mode, they have shown they can win with Exum. At the latter end of Exum’s first season with the Utah Jazz was when the Utah Jazz had their near historic defense rolling. The starting point guard? Dante Exum. He wasn’t near the player he is now. So if your excuse is “It’s simple math.” Check those numbers from the win column once Exum was put into the starting lineup from 2014. It’s simple math.