As the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Dante Exum has fallen short of his draft billing. That didn’t stop the Utah Jazz from recently re-signing him to a new contract, even if he is likely to continue coming off the bench for point guard Ricky Rubio and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. However, a new report suggests that the Jazz might be better off trading Exum to a team that needs a point guard, such as the Phoenix Suns, with the Suns giving up a wing player like T.J. Warren in return.
As noted by Hoops Habit, the Suns have long struggled to find a capable point guard, as the likes of Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, Tyler Ulis, and Elfrid Payton all failed to make the desired impact alongside young star Devin Booker. While Knight, Bledsoe, and Payton specifically put up good numbers as starters, Hoops Habit’s Luke Swiatek wrote that poor defense or a tendency to be too ball-dominant made them incompatible with their roles. He added that Dante Exum could change that, thanks to his physical tools and defensive ability.
“At 6’6″ and with a wingspan longer than 6’9″, he’s got the body and athleticism to guard [the point guard to small forward positions],” Swiatek wrote.
“He could cover up for Devin Booker on defense by taking the tougher assignment in the opposing backcourt, much like [Golden State Warriors guard] Klay Thompson does for Stephen Curry.”
— HoopsHabit (@HoopsHabit) August 20, 2018
Swiatek went on to explain that the Utah Jazz were great on defense but only average on offense in the 2017-18 season, where they upset the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs before falling to the Houston Rockets in the semifinals. As Swiatek saw it, the Jazz were “outgunned” by the James Harden and Chris Paul-led Rockets, as they didn’t have too many players who could create their own offense aside from Donovan Mitchell.
With this weakness in mind, Hoops Habit suggested that the Phoenix Suns could acquire Dante Exum for small forward T.J. Warren, as he could be a different kind of wing player from “three-and-D” players like Thabo Sefolosha and Jae Crowder. The publication opined that Warren also could fill the vacancy left by veteran Joe Johnson as a player who could create his own shot, and fit in with the Jazz in terms of salary cap space because he has a “very similar” contract to Exum.
“He doesn’t even need to start to be an important member of the roster. He could be a Lou Williams-like sixth man who comes off the bench and is the focal point of the offense when he’s in. He scored 19.6 points per game last year, so he’s clearly more than capable of putting up points in bunches.”
While T.J. Warren has had a more than decent NBA career so far, Dante Exum has struggled in three pro seasons, having missed the entire 2015-16 campaign due to injuries. He averaged a career-best 8.1 points and 3.1 assists in 2017-18 but only played 14 games as injuries continued to limit his contributions to the Jazz.