Cavaliers Offering Exum a Chance to be Reborn in Basketball
For the Cavaliers, the trade of Jordan Clarkson to Utah wasn't likely about getting back Dante Exum.
It probably had more to do with the two second-round picks -- in 2022 and 2023 (via San Antonio and Golden State, respectively). Cavs GM Koby Altman may try to use those picks to move up in the draft and get another first-rounder.
But Exum came with the deal and maybe he can spring to basketball life in Cleveland. A change of scenery can do that for a guy. Not often. But sometimes.
So what's the book on Exum?
Well, when it comes to his NBA career, only a few good sentences have been written. The rest are paragraph after paragraph of injury reports.
Let's start from the beginning.
Exum is a 6-foot-6 shooting guard. The Jazz actually drafted him as a point guard with the No. 5 overall back in 2014. That never materialized.
Believe it or not, Exum played in all 82 games as a rookie. He showed slight promise on a team that could afford to be patient.
Then came a major knee injury and the ensuing surgery.
Then came a major shoulder injury ... and the ensuing surgery.
In the meantime, the Jazz grew up quickly when they stole point guard Donovan Mitchell with the No. 13 overall pick in 2017. Before that, they hired vastly underrated coach Quin Snyder. By the time Exum returned, Utah's mission had changed.
As Gordon Monson wrote in the Salt Lake Tribune, trading for a bench scorer like Clarkson was Utah's way of trying to take a step toward contention. "They no longer can afford to fiddle-faddle around with Exum," Monson wrote.
Things are quite different with the Cavs. After four straight trips to the Finals, they are coming off a 19-63 season. They are clearly more enjoyable to watch and showing more promise this year.
Granted, no one is referring to Cleveland as the once-trendy "The Land" these days. But at least the franchise isn't being called The Land of Misfit Toys, either.
With first-time NBA coach John Beilein, second-year guard Collin Sexton and rookies Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr. and (eventually) Dylan Windler, there is hope.
Altman has a clear plan and it starts with developing young talent and acquiring draft picks. Anything beyond that would be a nice addition.
That is where a player such as Exum comes in. He is still young (24) and the Cavs are an outfit that can afford to wait and give a guy a second chance. When you make a trade such as this, the hope is that you find a steal.
Exum appeared in just 11 games with the Jazz this season, averaging a paltry 2.2 points. He has not been a strong enough ball-handler to play point guard. He hasn't been a very good perimeter shooter. He wasn't ever all that explosive. The knee injury has made him less so.
He did earn praise for some strong defense on Houston star James Harden during the 2018 playoffs, and perhaps that can be Exum's niche. In today's NBA, at least one solid perimeter defender is a must.
Basically, the Cavs (9-21) aren't expecting much from Exum. The trade was primarily made for the picks. It was also to create more minutes for the likes of Sexton, Garland, Porter and Windler.
But Exum has two years left on his contract, and he will get every chance to find his way into the Cavs' rotation. Exum is hoping that will be the case and the Cavs are, too.