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Why Dante Exum is the key to Utah’s championship hopes

Exum’s development will be the difference between a good team and a great team this year

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

A few days ago Dante Exum gave an interview to Fox Sports Australia and some of the quotes made the rounds again yesterday in this Bleacher Report article.

For some reason Exum becomes a lightning rod for debate among Jazz fans where one side doesn’t believe in him and then the correct side has built luxury real estate on Exum Island. By the way, prices are about to skyrocket!

In all seriousness, Dante Exum is the wildcard for this Jazz team. How well Exum does will tell us whether this Jazz team becomes really good, great or a championship contender.

The team has championship level talent in Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert with high level starters in Joe Ingles, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors. It also has high level role players coming off the bench. To get past the Warriors and Rockets the Jazz most likely need a third game-changing star, but that’s easier said than done.

Donovan Mitchell talked to Paul George and Chris Paul as much as he could this offseason, but there was probably never a very good shot at getting one of them. There are a lot of free agents in next year’s free agency that Utah could throw offers at, but will they elect to go with Utah? It looks promising with the Jazz on the up and up, but never a sure thing. In the end, they may be depending on one of their own players elevating their game to that level.

That’s where Exum becomes so intriguing. With Exum the Jazz are like Super Mario standing beneath a question mark box. They know they’re going to get something good out of it, but how good?

At worst it’s a single coin and Exum becomes another high level role player that can contribute to one of the potentially best benches in the league.

Maybe it’s multiple coins and Exum becomes a high level starting caliber player the Jazz are expecting?

Or maybe, just maybe, a flashing star comes out and Exum becomes the all-star caliber player the Jazz need.

By the grace of God, more workout videos were released recently including Exum playing alongside Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. In the most recent video Exum looks really comfortable. He’s as big as ever and his athleticism is very apparent.

That’s what is exciting about Exum. He’s never had a chance to really flourish. His rookie year was hampered with the tentativeness of replacing Trey Burke in the lineup. The next season ended with serious injury. The following year he had to sit on the bench to make Goron Clayward happy. And last season he missed most of the season because of another season ending injury.

This season is going to be a lot of fun for a lot of reasons, but one of them will be seeing Dante Exum finally have a full season of confident play without restrictions.

And if Exum can keep up play like this, the Jazz are going to be in great shape.

The Jazz announced they signed guard Trey Lewis.

Lewis will likely play during training camp and then join the Salt Lake City Stars. But who knows, there’s always a chance he plays beyond himself.

The Jazz may also be doing this to help Donovan get some of his clothes back. If that’s the case the Jazz are doing well to keep their players happy.

With the Jazz not releasing a new jersey design this year, and it being the middle of August, this is our chance to take a look at possible jersey designs.

This latest design from @ujcdsgn on Twitter is pretty great. I’m partial to the white jersey. Which one do you guys like?

One of the best parts of summer has been seeing Donovan Mitchell receive advice and train with the best in the game.

This shot of Donovan talking with Dwyane Wade is fantastic, especially considering Wade is one of the players Donovan gets compared to most often.

Finally, a big shoutout to Utah Jazz Reddit user fldsmdfr2point0 for this awesome Utah Jazz keyboard. Who do I throw my money at for this?