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Utah Jazz: Danté Exum believes he’s ready to lead team as point guard

First Published      Last Updated Jun 28 2017 09:49 am


Jazz » Exum started 26 games this season, but is confident that he can lead the team full time next season.

They may not always have seen eye to eye, but Dante Exum said he and his coach met frequently to talk things out over the course of what was a sometimes frustrating season for the young point guard.

"We made sure that every month we talked just to kind of reconnect and see where each other was at," Exum said this week. "Even though sometimes I didn't disagree with some of the stuff that he was doing, it was just to see what he was thinking and where can I work on my game so I can get my minutes back up. But we always reconnected so we could get back on the same page."




The 21-year-old Exum, however, probably would like the next chapter he and Jazz coach Quin Snyder write to read a little differently.

The young Aussie guard was frustrated with his role at times this season. After spending last season rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Exum found himself in and out of Snyder's rotation this season and it was almost exclusively off the ball as a shooting guard when he did play by the end of the year.

Exum said this week he would be "happy if [George Hill] comes back because he's a great player." But Exum would like a chance to be his successor should the free agent bolt from Utah this summer.

"I definitely have confidence in myself that I'm a point guard," Exum said, "and I'm ready to lead this team."

Reasonable observers may not share Exum's confidence. Not immediately. The fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft hasn't lived up to hope and hype and expectations yet.

Exum played in 66 games this season, starting 26 of them as the Jazz dealt with numerous injuries. He averaged 6.2 points while shooting 29.5 percent from 3-point territory.

He showed flashes of his speed and athleticism this season, including an 11-point first half in the Jazz's playoff finale against the Golden State Warriors. Exum believes he could be an "energy guy" for the Jazz next season, helping to avoid some of the slow starts that troubled them throughout the season and certainly during their postseason run.

"I've been able to bring that on the floor," he said. "It's not just being that ra-ra guy. Just kind of come out and defend and do the right thing and guys will follow, just lead in that type of way. I think that's important for us."

But even Exum, despite saying he had "made strides" and that he was "more and more confident" on the court, offered a dose of realism as he conducted his exit interview this week.

"Obviously I still have a long way to go," he said.

So the young guard's development will be a point of interest this summer. A year ago this time, the young Aussie had to dedicate much of his offseason to rehabilitation work, as he recovered from an ACL tear he had suffered in August 2015.

With no national team duties and a full summer ahead to work on his game, can he make the leap the Jazz would love to see?

"I definitely feel more comfortable at the point guard position," he said. "… I think that's a lot of my playmaking, just being able to use my speed and quickness in the open court. Hopefully I get to get the ball in my hands a little bit more and showcase that."

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk

 

AT A GLANCE

Exum’s 2016-17 averages

Points per game » 6.2

Rebounds per game » 2.0

Assists per game » 1.7

Turnovers per game » 1.2

FG percentage »  38.5

3-point FG percentage » 29.5


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