The Jazz were generating some degree of momentum and optimism going into the 2017-18 NBA season, and then guard Dante Exum severely injured his shoulder in a preseason game Friday.
This hurts, on multiple levels. Everyone’s biggest concern should be Exum himself, having go through another long rehabilitation process and likely missing a season for the second time in three years. How unfair is that?
From a fan’s perspective, though, it would be only natural to wonder how Exum’s absence will affect the team and whether the Jazz will ever get full return on their investment in him as a No. 5 overall pick. Remember, Exum was the fans’ supposed reward for the miserable season of 2013-14, when the Jazz tore down their roster to launch a rebuilding phase and finished 25-57.
The other effect is the inevitable feeling that the Jazz’s injury curse of 2016-17 will continue. This season was going to be tough enough as the team tries to account for Gordon Hayward’s free-agent vacancy, and any semblance of last year’s health issues will make things even more difficult.
Exum missed the 2015-16 season with the knee injury he sustained in an international game with his native Australia during the summer. He was in and out of the playing rotation last season, and looked to fill a consistent role as the backup to point guard Ricky Rubio this season.
Now what happens? The Jazz will need steady production from Raul Neto, while also using rookie Donovan Mitchell at the point and experimenting with other players such as Alec Burks.
Jazz coach Quin Snyder will find ways to account for Exum’s absence, but the player will be missed. And it’s just another harsh turn of events for Exum, who has worked hard to come back from his previous injury and establish himself in the NBA. And while his contract guarantees that he’ll be paid this season, the injury comes at a time when he needed to improve his marketability for the sake of his career. He won’t have that opportunity now.