Dante Exum, the 5th overall pick in this year’s draft and the hottest Australian prospect since Andrew Bogut, started out his fledgling professional career against the 76ers in the pre-season Summer League in Las Vegas. The purpose of the Summer League is to bed in the young bucks hoping to come into the NBA, but it also gives everyone a delicious excuse to salivate over some of the higher draft picks, the potential NBA superstars. Cleveland’s Andrew Wiggins (who has some serious hops), Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker (here he is up against Wiggins’ Cavs) have been impressing in their early run-outs, and Exum (who was expected by many to go a little higher than 5th in the draft) would have been hoping to do the same. The tantalising thing about the Australian was that he was a bit of a mystery to most; untested at the American college level, Exum reeks of NBA star potential. Athletic, intelligent with the ball and with an explosive first step, the oversized point guard was snapped up by the Utah Jazz. Here’s how he went in his first game for them.
You can see immediately that Exum looks comfortable in his, albeit junior, surroundings. And what a way to score your first points, taking advantage of some slack defending to cut and leap for the two-handed reverse alley-oop. In a league where uber-athletic point guards are the current vogue, Exum’s rangy length and leaping ability will fit right in. In what can be a skittish environment, with youngsters all brimming with eagerness and nervous energy, Exum finished with 3 assists to only 1 turnover, which is excellent. Shabazz Napier, the Heat rookie PG, was guilty of turning the ball over eight times in his Summer League debut, as a comparison. Exum’s sense for the pass was on point, and he linked up with his new team mates well.
He showed some quick hands and hustle for the steal-and-dunk combo halfway through the second quarter, robbing a player in the backcourt and finishing emphatically with two hands. Then that first step everyone was talking was pulled out by Exum in the third quarter, blazing by his man after a savvy hesitation. His strides are huge and he is quick enough to blow by even the most alert defenders. Silkily finishing the move with the basket-protected layup was further evidence of his potential.
It was, all in all, a very strong start for the Australian, and the Jazz will be rubbing their hands in anticipation of the progress to come. The true test of his abilities in the NBA proper is still to be conducted, of course, but Exum’s confidence, along with the Jazz faithful, will be boosted by this stylish performance.