Utah missed the playoffs for the third straight year after finishing with a 38-44 record in 2014-15. However, the Jazz were much better in the second half of the season, going 19-10 record and boasting the number one defense following the All-Star break, according to Yahoo! Sports.
A big reason for the Jazz’s second half improvement was Exum’s play, especially on the defensive end. Utah went 24-17 with Exum in the starting lineup as the Jazz permitted 6.5 points fewer per 100 possessions than when Trey Burke was in the lineup. The six-foot, six-inch, 20-year-old combo guard finished his rookie season averaging 4.8 points and 2.4 assists a game, while shooting 34.9 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.
While Utah has not officially announced how long Exum will be sidelined, the Salt Lake Tribune estimated the timetable for his return following surgery to range from six months-to a year.
So, with Exum on the shelf for a while, the question is where will the Jazz turn for point guard help?
Burke will likely become the starter after being initially being penciled in as Exum’s backup. The 22-year-old point guard struggled last year after earning All-Rookie First Team selection two seasons ago. Burke, who made 43 starts, averaged 12.8 points and 4.7 assists, while shooting 36.8 percent from the floor and 31.8 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Bryce Cotton and rookie Raul Neto (2013 second round selection) will likely battle for a roster spot in training camp, while rookie Olivier Hanlan’s (2015 second round pick) status is up in the air.
Cotton was superb for the Jazz during summer league play. The six-foot, one-inch point guard averaged 16.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.5 steals a contest an outing while playing in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Cotton averaged 5.3 points and 1.2 rebounds as he shot 42.0 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Cotton is strong and athletic, while also possessing the ability to score in bunches.
Neto is very creative and an excellent passer. He possesses good speed but struggles to score, particularly from the perimeter — Neto shot just 20 percent from the three-point line in Spain last year.
Deseret News is reporting that Hanlan will have a choice to make if the Jazz offer him a one-year non-guaranteed tender, which is likely. Hanlan could either sign the contract and get cut in training camp, or leave the tender unsigned and go to the D-League or overseas for a year.
With the point guard free agent market basically dried up, another option for the Jazz is explore the trade market. Deseret News‘ Jody Genessy tweeted that the Jazz are interested in Washington Wizards’ veteran point guard Garrett Temple.
Temple averaged 3.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.1 assists last season for the Wizards. Temple is in the last year of his contract and will make $1.1 million this upcoming season.
Snyder and general manager Dennis Lindsey have relationships with Temple that date back to the end of the 2009-10 season when the three were with the San Antonio Spurs organization.
Lindsey has refuted the notion that the Jazz has been discussing temporary replacements for Exum.
“There is a bunch of speculation out there right now. Quin and my mindset are exactly the same at this particular time. We’re concerned about Dante Exum and the long-term care. We’ve had no conversations whatsoever about anyone else outside the Utah Jazz.”
However, from the Wizards perspective, trading Temple would make sense depending on what they receive in return according to Fox Sports. If Temple is traded, it would leave John Wall and Ramon Sessions as the only point guards on the Wizards roster, though Bradley Beal is capable of filling in when needed.
Utah could also possibly work out trades with the Boston Celtics (Isaiah Thomas), Miami Heat (Mario Chalmers), or Dallas Mavericks (Ray Felton). A couple of free agent possibilities include restricted free agent Norris Cole and Zoran Dragic, who is expected to be released by Boston soon.
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