Heading into the offseason, the Dallas Mavericks had two goals in mind. One, re-sign Kyrie Irving. And two, put a competitive team around him and Luka Doncic.
They addressed the first of those two goals on the very first day of free agency, re-signing Irving to a three-year, $142 million contract and securing the duo of him and Doncic for years to come.
As for the second goal, they are well on their way to doing that, as they’ve made a flurry of moves so far this summer. They made two trades at the NBA Draft, coming away with rookies Dereck Lively II and Olivier-Maxence Prosper and veteran big man Richaun Holmes, and they signed Seth Curry in free agency.
Then, they made a smaller move that came out of nowhere but could be a low-risk, high-reward signing. Dallas inked Dante Exum to a guaranteed contract, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Exum, a 6-foot-5 guard, spent this past season playing with KK Partizan, helping them on their way to their first AdmiralBet ABA League trophy since the 2012-13 season.
During his time with Partizan, Exum appeared in 74 games across three separate competitions. He averaged 12.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists while shooting 52.1% from the field and 38.8% from behind the three-point line.
The 27-year-old was the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft but spent just seven seasons in the NBA before heading overseas, and one of those years, his sophomore season, was completely wiped out due to an injury.
Throughout his NBA career, Exum’s three-point shot haunted him, as he was never able to nail his threes at an efficient rate (30.5% in 245 games played). However, his success from distance overseas for the past two years (he spent one year at FC Barcelona before joining Partizan) gives new life to his NBA journey.
Exum’s 6-foot-9 wingspan has helped him throughout his career, too, as his defensive presence was one of the most intriguing parts of his game that led him to be a top-five pick.
For the Mavericks, this is a perfect gamble. Exum is high-level defender, something they need desperately, and if his shots fall at a semi-consistent rate, he could earn comfortable minutes.
Plus, with Irving, Doncic, Curry, Jaden Hardy, and Josh Green, even if Exum doesn’t work out, the Mavericks already have decent guard depth to roll with.
The fact that Exum never broke through in the NBA is the only thing holding this back from being an A- or even an A. Dallas is looking to win a championship with Doncic, so taking chances on players could be frowned upon by some.
But all in all, Exum is the exact type of player the Mavericks should want to have playing next to Doncic and Irving. The success of the move will depend upon his success behind the three-point line.