There have been a lot storylines during this this up and down season. We’ve seen Donovan Mitchell improve his game yet again and appears to be taking another leap with Mike Conley missing time. We’ve watched the slow start for Mike Conley as he works his way through injury and understanding the offense. We watched Ed Davis miss a month because of a broken leg. But the biggest storyline of all has been the absolute negative the Jazz bench has been this season.
This year the bench production headed up by Emmanuel Mudiay, Jeff Green, Ed Davis and Georges Niang has really struggled. You look at the runs against the Jazz and everything coincides to when the 2nd unit steps onto the floor.
Through games on Dec. 19, here's how all members of the Utah Jazz have fared in TPA during the 2019-20 #NBA season. #TakeNote pic.twitter.com/8KZbi2GnsF— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) December 20, 2019
The good news is that Jazz starting units are doing really well and 5-man lineups that include five of either Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’neale and Rudy Gobert all have a positive net rating.
If you told Jazz fans before the season how bad the bench would be this year they’d probably predict that Dante Exum was the reason because most people expected to have some sort of role coming off the bench.
But Dante Exum has played a total of 83 minutes this season. And a good chunk of that has been in garbage time.
Just for curiosity I looked at some of the worst net rating 5-man lineups for the Jazz and Dante Exum shows up in two of the worst. Sounds pretty bad. It must mean he’s missing shots and layups right? Probably turning the ball over like crazy.
Let’s take a look at one of the lineups Dante has played the most minutes with that has a -8 net rating. It should also be noted that because Quin gives Dante 6 minute time-frames to prove himself these lineups have only shown up in single game stints, not over multiple games against different teams. This six minute stint was against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Let me know in the comments what you see, but to me I see a player who trying not to make a mistake and be taken off the floor.
At worst the Jazz got shots taken by their best players. Donovan Mitchell is running the show and shots were not falling against two of the best defensive bigs in the league in Joel Embiid and Al Horford.
If you asked me what I prefer between Exum deferring to Mitchell or one of our current bench players taking shots, I’ll take Mitchell from Exum every time.
On top of that, this was during the Jazz’s worst stretch of the season when things were not working on any level.
That means Dante Exum is being asked to prove himself in 6 minutes against a top ten team in the league at the end of a long road trip, while the Jazz still haven’t figured out things offensively. To me that doesn’t seem like a very fair shot at succeeding.
Now, to be fair to Quin we don’t see a lot in these clips of Exum impacting the game on the offensive end. He’s in the corner on a lot of these waiting for the pass and his defender is able to play off of him possibly contributing to a more clogged paint. Are there things we’re missing like Exum needing to cut to the basket or missing a rotation we don’t know about? Maybe.
But couldn’t some of that be alleviated by playing him and letting him grow some chemistry with the team?
On top of that, what if Quin Snyder showed Dante he believed in him? What if Dante Exum stepped onto the court knowing that his coach wouldn’t pull him at the first mistake he made on the court? Could he work his way into a positive rotation player? With all of his physical talent, it’s hard to imagine not.
The other counter is that he might get injured. If that’s the reason for not playing him then the Jazz are paying for a player to cheer from the bench. And if you want to keep him healthy for a possible trade, you’re not helping yourself because his trade value couldn’t be lower. Bring Dante Exum off the bench for regular minutes and if he plays well watch his trade value go up.
Quin Snyder can obviously do whatever he wants with the team and overall is doing a good job this year with the Jazz now moving up the standings with a 17-11 ranking. But playing Dante Exum could lead to fixing the Jazz’s biggest problem this season without having to make a single move during trade season.