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Utah Jazz trade Dante Exum to Cleveland Cavaliers for Jordan Clarkson

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An annual tradition like none other. Trading with Cleveland for help midseason.

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Exum Island is now under new management. The Utah Jazz traded the former #5 pick of the 2014 draft Dante Exum away to the Cleveland Cavaliers for some bench depth. The Utah Jazz bench has been one of the worst in the NBA and Utah desperately needs someone other than Emmanuel Mudiay or one of Royce O’Neale and Joe Ingles to be worth the weight of their contract. The Utah Jazz sent two second round picks alongside Dante Exum to the Cavaliers.

This is now the third year in a row the Utah Jazz have partnered with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a midseason trade. In 2017-2018, the Jazz sent Rodney Hood to the Cavs as part of a three team trade that netted Utah Jae Crowder. In 2018-2019, the Jazz made a trade for Kyle Korver while sending out Alec Burks. Now the Jazz have pulled in Jordan Clarkson.

This season Jordan Clarkson is averaging 14.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists on shooting splits of 44/37/88. Per Cleaning The Glass, the Cleveland Cavaliers were 8.3 points per 100 possessions better when Clarkson was on the court. Utah is in desperate need of someone who can light it up from the bench and Clarkson fits the bill. Clarkson scores 0.64 points per minute. For context, the only players that score at a similar or higher clip per minute for the Utah Jazz are Bojan Bogdanovic (0.63) and Donovan Mitchell (0.72). Same goes for a per possession basis. Clarkson has 5 games of 20 points or more this season from the bench. Not one bench player on the Utah Jazz has scored 20 points or more. To add insult to injury the Utah Jazz bench is averaging only 21.8 points per game over their last 5 games. Their opponents have been some of the easiest they’ve faced all season.

Thus ends the tenure of Dante Exum. Players that have been drafted and stayed with Utah as long-term pieces since Dennis Lindsey took over now number only a few. Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Tony Bradley, Miye Oni, Jarrell Brantley, Justin Wright-Foreman, and Nigel Williams-Goss. That’s it. Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Trey Lyles, and Raul Neto are all gone now. Dante Exum lasted the longest, but it seems that even potential has an expiration date.

Admittedly, this is hard. Dante Exum was supposed to be the heir to the Deron Williams point guard thrown. A rash of unfortunate injuries season after season and accelerated time tables for playoff contention and now title contention never aligned with his development schedule. The prime development year of 2015-2016 was derailed because of an offseason injury in FIBA play. The rebuilding year of 2016-2017 was thrown off similarly by an injury. Last season appeared to be the season in which Dante Exum put it together and yet another injury showed its ugly face. It speaks to the bad luck and the disinterest of the Utah Jazz to develop Dante Exum that Utah had to add two additional second round picks to move his contract. There would have been a time—despite Exum’s injuries—that he would have commanded draft picks and someone of Clarkson’s ilk. We have now arrived at the worst case scenario of Dante Exum’s career trajectory.

For Cleveland, they hope that Dante Exum can bounce back in a new scenery, get the minutes game after game to push through his mistakes, and not have Quin Snyder’s expectations bouncing around in his head. Exum gets a clean slate. Hopefully Exum takes full advantage of his second chance. Other players like Kyle Lowry, Shaun Livingston, and Chauncey Billups were able to salvage their despite disappointing starts or injury derailments. Jazz fans will be rooting for his success. This Jazz fan will be rooting for Exum Island to reach its full potential.

Looking back the 2014 NBA Draft, it now seems like a terrible draft. It was hyped to be one of the best in a long time with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker headlining. Now we have Jabari Parker on his fourth team, Andrew Wiggins still with the Timberwolves and terribly high contract that doesn’t match his value, Aaron Gordon who is constant trade rumors, and Dante Exum never having the health to start his journey to meet expectations. The top end of the draft was a dud besides Joel Embiid who was the player no one wanted to touch because of injury concerns. That draft class’s potential did have a shelf life and it was 2019.