Personally, I was excited for the chance to see another borderline all-star on the team and was bummed when it didn’t happen. Now, with 25 games left before the playoffs, the Jazz have the perfect opportunity to see if the upgrade they’ve been hoping for has been on the team this whole time.
According to Tankathon the Jazz have the 2nd easiest schedule in the league. This is an opportunity for the team to try some new things.
We’ve already seen Quin Snyder experiment recently by playing Royce O’neale at the 4-spot against the Spurs. It went surprisingly well with O’neale posting a season high 17 points while shooting 4/4 from three and having a +14 for the game. That seems good enough to try some more.
The Jazz need to try this type of thing with Dante Exum, as well. To begin the year Exum looked to be permanently locked into Quin Snyder’s doghouse again. Exum had 5 games playing less than ten minutes. A few of those games were because of garbage time, but there were a few that Exum had as quick a leash as he’s ever had.
And then something changed against the Miami Heat on December 12th. Exum was a +27 for the game scoring 14 points and shooting 2⁄3 from 3. Whatever happened, something seemed to click. From that point on his level of play improved dramatically with Exum shooting 48% from the field and 38% from three. His minutes went up to 18 per game and it looked like he might be finally turning that corner that we’ve all waited for.
And then he turned his ankle going around a screen on defense.
Exum should return soon though and it’s in the Jazz’s best interest to give him as many minutes as possible, maybe even start. As important as Ricky Rubio was last season for Utah, this season opposing teams have decided to ignore him completely on the perimeter and focusing more defenders on the Jazz’s more potent wing scorers in Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles.
If defenders try this on Exum he’s so fast he’s able to blow by a sagging defender regardless of how far back they sag off of him. And with Exum shooting 38% from three? That may not even matter.
Watch Exum's guy go under, but X beats him anyway. My goodness. pic.twitter.com/khcDkF8SlC— dan clayton (@danclayt0n) January 7, 2019
If the defender decides to stick with Exum, his blinding first step, combined with a much improved handle, makes him more than capable of beating anyone in the league.
Or watch him go the *instant* he sees his guy stepping up to ice the pick. The big knows Exum's defender has no chance of recovering, so he slides over. But Exum just goes right up his chest to the rim. Goosebumps. Been waiting four years for that play. pic.twitter.com/SxgruR33Se— dan clayton (@danclayt0n) January 7, 2019
Exum has always had an incredible ceiling and if he is able to stay healthy, while also keeping up his most recently level of play, the Utah Jazz may have the upgrade they’ve been looking for.
But if Exum doesn’t get the chance now, he may never have this good of an opportunity again. The schedule is soft enough that the Jazz can experiment and still win.
For all of Exum’s potential, his penchant for turning the ball over or breaking the rhythm of Quin Snyder’s offense has made it difficult for Snyder to trust him.
With the easy schedule coming up, Quin Snyder needs to embrace the chaos because what may emerge is the difference maker the Jazz have been hoping for. Exum has signed a three year deal with the Jazz, it’s his turn to show what he can do. And that may be everything the Jazz have been hoping for.