Dante’s 21. We have very high expectations of him. Dante is doing extremely good work. —Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey on Dante Exum
SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to the Utah Jazz’s point guard situation, this offseason’s chatter has mostly centered around George Hill’s free agency and how the team traded up to draft Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell.
Meanwhile, Dante Exum is apparently having himself a very nice summer away from the spotlight.
“Quin and I challenged him in the exit interview and gave him some truth,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “He’s responded in a big way.”
Exum missed all of his second NBA season after undergoing knee surgery during the offseason following his rookie year. This past season, he was in and out of the Jazz rotation, occasionally showing glimpses of his exciting potential but also showing glaring holes in his game.
As Lindsey indicated, Jazz management is delighted with how the 21-year-old Aussie has responded this offseason while working out in Utah.
Exum, Lindsey noted, will even make an appearance during the upcoming Utah Jazz summer league, which runs July 3-6 at the Huntsman Center. That's news considering Exum had told reporters in May that he wasn't going to participate. Seeing him paired up with Mitchell in the backcourt would be a fun summer surprise for Jazz fans. (By the way, Lindsey said Exum is not likely to participate in the Las Vegas summer league.)
“You’ll see a tremendous player and some real growth,” Lindsey said of Exum. “Dante’s 21. We have very high expectations of him. Dante is doing extremely good work.”
The Jazz were very high on Exum before he had injury issues following his rookie season, first in a Jazz summer league game (ankle) and then with the Australian national team (knee).
Utah has big decisions to make in terms of its point guard situation, and the Jazz are hopeful that using the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Exum will pay dividends.
It remains uncertain whether Hill will re-sign with the Jazz, something both parties would like to do if they can come to a mutual financial agreement. Even though injuries hampered a third of Hill's season and playoffs, it’s possible the veteran point guard played his way into a contract that will be more than Utah is willing to pay.
Whether it’s Hill or another player, Lindsey said the Jazz will have an experienced playmaker on the squad. There have been reports that Utah is among a slew of teams interested in Houston’s Patrick Beverley and the Jazz have explored trading for Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio, according to sources.
“It’s no secret,” Lindsey said, “that somewhere in our lineup we’re going to have a veteran point guard.”
The Jazz carried four point guards last season, but it remains to be seen if they go that route again. Mitchell is more of a combo guard — Snyder loves players who can play multiple positions — and third-year playmaker Raul Neto is the only other point guard under contract for next season. Shelvin Mack and Hill are both unrestricted free agents.
Lindsey plans on speaking with Hill’s camp early in the upcoming free-agency period, which opens Friday at 10:01 p.m. MDT. The team’s biggest priority, of course, is trying to persuade All-Star small forward Gordon Hayward to stay in Utah.
The Jazz have a unique opportunity this week to bolster their lineup. Utah has about $16 million in cap space that would have to be used before the free agency period begins.
"George is going to have an incumbent advantage," Lindsey said. "In the meantime, we’re going to have flexibility under the cap until July 1. We have a few extra draft picks that could be assets that would help us make an uneven trade with cap room."