Disappointing Exum Era Ends With Trade For Jordan Clarkson

Dec 23, 2019, 8:18 PM | Updated: Dec 24, 2019, 10:48 am
Dante Exum...
during a opening night game at Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 23, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Dante Exum era in Utah is over, as the Utah Jazz traded the former fifth overall pick, and two future second-round picks to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson. Exum was the Jazz selection in the prized 2014 NBA draft that was billed as a once in a generation collection of talent – but has since served as a warning for teams tanking games to better their draft position. 

The 2014 draft class has produced just two All-Stars, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, of whom only Embiid was drafted in the first round. The class, which was expected to inject the league with All-NBA talent for the next decade has been plagued by injuries to players selected in the lottery, and bloated salaries by teams doubling down on their draft investment. 

Like many from his class, Exum’s career through six seasons has been derailed by injuries, starting during the summer after his rookie season. While playing for the Australian national team, Exum suffered a torn ACL that caused him to miss his entire sophomore season. 

Exum dislocated his shoulder during the preseason of his fourth year in Utah, causing him to miss all but the final 14 games of the regular season. In his fifth season, Exum tore the patellar tendon in his right knee, causing him to miss the final 14 games of the season, and the first 12 games of this season. 

Since his return, Exum had fallen out of the Jazz rotation in favor of Emmanuel Mudiay and hadn’t played in the previous five Jazz games, all victories. 

Exum’s best stretches of basketball in Utah came in the final 41 games of his rookie season when he took over the starting point guard role from Trey Burke, leading the team to 38 wins on the season. Then, in a playoff matchup with the Houston Rockets, Exum displayed high-level defensive potential against James Harden, limiting the MVP to 0-7 shooting in 22 defensive possessions. 

The Jazz rewarded Exum with a three-year $33 million contract but traded him just 18 months after signing the extension. 

Between injury, or by falling out of the rotation, Exum appeared in just 215 of a possible 439 games with the team. Exum finished his Jazz career averaging 5.7 points, 2.2 assists, and 1.7 rebounds, shooting just 40% from the floor and 30% from the three-point line. 

Exum represents perhaps the biggest misstep of the Jazz during their rebuilding effort, as the Australian guard was rarely able to stay on the floor, and when he did play, he rarely displayed an ability to impact games positively. By moving Exum at the mid-way point of his three-year contract, the team was able to rid themselves of the final year of his contract. 

In Cleveland, Exum will get a much needed second chance on a team that better fits his developmental timeline. The Jazz are in win-now mode and couldn’t have an $11 million player sitting on the bench in need of rehabilitation minutes. With the Cavaliers, Exum can be brought along slowly off the bench behind young guards Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, on a team with no urgency to win games. 

Clarkson provides the Jazz with an upgraded scoring threat, likely moving into a bench unit that has badly struggled to keep with opposing second units this season. The Jazz will be the third team Clarkson has played for, after getting drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 46th pick of the 2014 NBA draft, before being traded to the Cavaliers in February of 2018. 

The Missouri product was a surprise selection to the 2015 All-Rookie team after averaging 11.9 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.2 rebounds in his first year in the league. Clarkson is currently in the midst of arguably his best NBA season, averaging 14.6 points, 2.4 assists, and 2.4 rebounds while shooting a career-best .532 effective field goal percentage. According to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, Clarkson has been the 85th biggest impact player this season with a +1.49 rating. +1.49 would be the fourth-highest rating for the Jazz this season behind Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Donovan Mitchell. 

The Jazz struggling bench was led in scoring by Jeff Green who averagesd just 7.8 points per game this season and shot 38 percent from the floor and 33 percent from the three-point line before being waived by the Jazz shortly after the Exum trade.

Clarkson is set to become a free agent this summer after signing a four year $50 million contract with the Lakers in 2016. 

The sixth-year guard will need to clear physicals to be available for the Jazz who next play Thursday night against the Portland Trailblazers in Salt Lake City. 

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