The Dallas Mavericks only signed two guards this offseason. Seth Curry, who played for the Mavs in two different stints previously, and Dante Exum.
Most fans may remember Dante Exum as the highly touted prospect whom the Utah Jazz selected fifth overall in 2014. However, Exum never lived up to his top-5 draft status and was out of the NBA by 2021.
The Jazz selected Exum based on his massive potential as a prospect. The Australian was projected as a 6-foot-6 scoring guard with the handle of a point guard and the ability to defend multiple positions due to his combination of size and athleticism. Exum was even compared to former NBA superstar Penny Hardaway before the draft.
3 reasons why Dante Exum will be part of the Mavericks' nightly rotation
Exum's first few seasons in the league were marred by injury. After playing 22.8 minutes per game as a rookie, a sophomore jump seemed likely. In the summer after his rookie season, while playing for the Aussies, Exum tore his ACL and never regained his spot in the Jazz rotation.
Never playing more than 66 games per season after his ACL tear, Exum was shipped to the Cavs in 2020. He only played 30 games in Cleveland before a trade to the Rockets, where he was subsequently waived.
After two seasons playing overseas for Partizan NIS Belgrade and Barcelona, the once highly-touted prospect revived his value and signed with the Mavericks in July. While playing for the Serbian club, Exum averaged 13.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game.
More importantly, Exum looked drastically different as a shooter. He shot 52 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from beyond the arc. A massive uptick from his marks in the NBA. Exum holds career averages of 40.7 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from downtown.
With a lack of guard depth and only a few quality defenders on the roster, Exum may very well find himself playing significant minutes for the Mavs. Here are three reasons why Exum will be part of the nightly rotation.
3. Defensive Prowess
Exum was highly drafted in part due to his outstanding physical profile. He is 6-foot-6 with a large 6-foot-9 wingspan. Additionally, after weighing less than 200 lbs entering the NBA, Exum is now listed at 214 lbs.
With his impressive combination of size and strength, it's easy to envision Exum defending positions 1-through-3 for the Mavs. He has the requisite quickness to defend point guards and the length to defend small forwards.
For instance, Exum is the same height and has a longer wingspan than Tim Hardaway Jr., who has spent significant time on the wing for the past four-plus seasons in Dallas.
While playing for Partizan, Exum averaged 0.8 steals per game in just 23 minutes of action. In his 38 contests with the Serbian club, Exum had eight multi-steal games.
Although his defensive contributions aren't obvious in the box score, they are more apparent when watching him play. Exum excels playing off-ball defense. He keeps his eyes on the ball and plays passing lanes well. Time and time again, Exum intercepts passes and is always willing to go coast-to-coast whenever he picks off a pass.
As a guard, Exum does a great job of rotating to the rim. His help defense is superior to most guards, as he isn't one to shy away from defending the rim. Exum uses his 6-foot-9 frame to contest shots and smother guards and forwards when they get past their initial defender off the bounce.
The Mavs clearly lack quality perimeter defenders. Wing and fellow Aussie, Josh Green, is the only other Maverick who can defend guards at a high level. Although Kyrie Irving can play solid perimeter defense at times, he is only 6-foot-2 and will expend most of his energy on offense.
Exum is a great addition playing next to Irving and Luka Doncic. He will be able to take pressure off both the Mavs' star guards as he will likely be tasked with spending time defending the opposing team's best guards.