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Statistics aren’t everything when deciding on Dante Exum sitting

James is getting upset!

NBA: Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

[Ed. Note: Yes, Utah Jazz fans, we’re not quite done discussing this. Jazz-bear with us.]

There’s a frustrating trend I’ve noticed that people are using to explain why Shelvin Mack has the backup spot instead of Dante Exum. People are using current statistics when measuring young, high upside players. James is getting upset!

This may sound crazy, maybe I’m going rogue when I say this, but analytics and statistics aren’t always the end all answer with measuring a young player’s talent and future. Let’s take a look at some players who have developed in this league. More specifically, let’s look at on court/off court splits, because that is what is being used to tell the story with Dante Exum and Shelvin Mack.

First, let’s look at the on court/off court statistics from this first bozo...

What a clown! This guy HURTS his team when he’s on the floor. A BUST I SAY! (That’s Derrick Favors in his second year.)

Oh, okay....

What about this guy?

He’s a bum, a bum I tells ya (when you read this it must be done in the voice of Rocky’s trainer, Mickey). Doesn’t even help the team at all! TOTAL BUST!!!! (This is Paul Millsap in his second year)

Hmmm, allright then...

But what about this Loser?

I mean LA HOOO ZA HERRRRRR amirite? (This is Demarcus Cousins in his THIRD season)

Welp, then, hmmmm **scratches head**

Okay, well, one more. How bout this bum from his second season...

What a complete and utter bust to put up these types of numbers. BUSSSSTTTTT. No one will EVER give this guy a max hahahaha (This is Rudy Gobert’s second season.)

...I’m just gonna go now....

There’s a lesson here, even an epiphany.

Perhaps when looking at high upside, young players we should look at the talent and then allow them to develop? Instead, we use things like “simple math” to give easy answers to long, complex development of talented young players.

It doesn’t always work. If we only look at current stats for players with obvious talent and upside, we’ll miss the forest for the trees. This is exactly how things were done with Corbin. We had young talent that needed time to develop but would always lose out on time on the court to established, finished product, veterans.

I understand that we are in win now mode and that’s a big reason Dante is not seeing the court. At least that’s the explanation we are being given. And, honestly, if you take a snapshot of statistics right now, Shelvin Mack is a slightly better option. But Shelvin Mack is a finished product. He’s being coached way up by Quin Snyder. If you look at Mack’s history, you could argue he’s playing out of his mind, and that makes him slightly better than an inexperienced Dante Exum coming off a serious injury.

And this is what makes that serious injury hurt that much more, because Dante would have gotten the time needed last year in a development season. James is very frustrated!

But do people honestly think that Exum can’t get better? That his speed and agility mixed with his high motor, intelligence and competitiveness won’t eventually mold into, at the very least, a nice player? That seems like the safer bet to me than him being an outright bust.

Another frustrating aspect of Exum’s injury was that instead of building more body strength, on top the core strength he had built after his rookie season, Exum had to spend that time rehabbing. More than anything, Exum probably lost all of the body strength he had attained through muscle atrophy during the injury. Right now, we’re looking at Exum at a core strength level that’s probably at best where he was at as a rookie, maybe worse!

You can see the strength issues whenever Exum is guarding at the point of attack and players dive into his chest. Dante gives ground on almost every drive this year. It’s obvious that opposing coaches have found that advantage and attack Exum immediately. If Exum gets his strength back, he can dig in and not give ground and will become that defensive force we remember. Whatever it is, let’s hope he figures it out.

As for the passiveness, Exum needs to continue driving to the hoop. He is finishing better and better as the season moves on. Just look at these highlights earlier this year against the Suns when Exum scored 18 points. Yes, Exum scored 18 points in a game this year, but you wouldn’t remember that considering his exile to the bench.

It’s very clear that when Exum builds his strength he will be a force at the rim and his finishing will improve. Look at everything Gordon Hayward has been able to do by building his body. Hayward’s a physical force with incredible body control but he doesn’t have the speed of Exum, so you can see what Exum could do when he gets there.

And that’s Exum’s biggest problem right now, he needs to drive but he’s either not able or willing to. But to be able to do that, Quin needs to stop pulling him after every mistake. At the end of the first half against the Rockets, Quin put him in and pulled him after only 60 seconds. 60 seconds! It’s like he saw the opposing team score and pulled him out because he knew what it would do to his +/- or something and justify Shelvin’s role. I know, I know, it’s not that. But I’m mad, okay!?

Exum will be fine, but patience is the key. He’ll get stronger and his instincts will come. He’s a sponge and he’s got the tools to become special still. So when you send me the tweets that Mack is better my reaction will always be the same.