While most of the Utah Jazz fanbase rightfully has its collective eyes glued to the news feed churning out fresh reports surrounding the Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell, there are many underlying stories and decisions to come later this month and early July.
Most of these decisions revolve around which players Dennis Lindsey will attempt to move or try to keep around. Plenty of discussion has already been had on Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors, but another player whose name might appear on the transaction wire is oft-injured guard and former fifth overall pick, Dante Exum.
Every year of his career, Exum has drifted closer and closer to the scrap heap of draft busts. His complete inability to stay healthy not only means he can’t produce, but it’s also meant a project player like him can’t utilize his amazing physical tools.
Lindsey took a big gamble on Exum this past offseason by giving him a three-year $33 million contract which the Australian guard clearly had not earned to that point. It was a generous vote of confidence that some fans weren’t comfortable with.
So far, that gamble is not paying dividends. Exum played just 42 games in 2018-19, missed the entire playoffs, and, outside of a decent 14-game December stretch, he didn’t show off much of that alleged All-Star talent.
Even if Exum can still capitalize to some degree on the potential that made him the fifth overall pick, it might be better for the Jazz to move the young guard based on the situation at hand. Utah’s championship window, assuming the team can even open one by acquiring another star, is fast approaching. It may not be worth the wait on that potential. Not because it won’t matchup up with any timeline, but because the Jazz are paying him $11 million a year through 2020-21. That money could hold up minor free agent signings this year or next that would supplement a true championship squad. It might also restrict flexibility for the Jazz with new contracts for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell in the not-too-distant future.
Assuming Lindsey chose to try and trade Exum, the next question is if he can manage? Exum’s trade value has never been lower and his contract certainly doesn’t make things easier. Plus, to justify trading Exum for monetary reasons, Utah will have to bring in an expiring contract. That comes out to your average, ordinary salary dump, which means sending draft picks or a prospect.
This one decision isn’t really a major one. It isn’t about a max contract player or a horribly contract. But these small decisions, clumped together, do become major burdens or boons based on how they get handled. The small things win games and championships on the court and so do the small transactions that only make a handful of headlines.