On Monday, the Cavs acquired guard Dante Exum and two second-round picks in exchange for Jordan Clarkson. So what could Exum offer the Cavs exactly?
Dante Exum 101
Exum, 24, is a 6’6” guard who was picked No. 5 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. A native of Australia, Exum had a decent rookie season before tearing his ACL playing for his country in 2015. He then missed the entire 2015-16 season. For his career, he’s been a poor offensive player — he’s shooting 40.1% from the field and 30.5% from three for his career while being an average-to-above average passer. He also runs the floor well and has good speed.
Defensively, he’s long and rangy and rates out as slightly negative per DRPM. He also doesn’t create many turnovers, meaning he’s likely best suited to contribute well as part of an overall solid team concept. This year, after being injured when the season began, he’s only appeared in 11 games.
One concern about Exum is a checkered injury history. Aside from the 2015-16 season he missed, he played in 14 games in 2017-18 and 42 games in 2018-19. He’s set to make $9.6 million this season and $9.6 million next year in the last year of his contract.
What are his best skills?
Exum could help the Cavs as a passer and ball mover. Especially working off of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland — two players who don’t pass much — Exum could fill a need. He doesn’t have elite vision by any means. But he makes the right play more often than not. There’s something to that.
Defensively, he’s also solid. He’s not going to be a top-level defender or lockdown opposing lead scorers, but he’s an upgrade over some of the players the Cavs have. It’s a funky mix, but there’s a secondary creator-defensive hybrid somewhere in there.
What are his weaknesses?
As noted, Exum has a hard time staying on the court. If he can’t stay healthy, there’s no value to be had.
Exum also isn’t a good shooter. His shot form is not fluid and very slow. Teams can ignore him, even if his ability to drive and kick is there.
To take it one step further: Exum shot under 30% on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last year. That is a massive, massive red flag for his potential effectiveness as an NBA player. By comparison, Cedi Osman shot 33.7% on catch-and-shoot threes last season on almost double the volume.
How does he fit on the Cavs?
In the Clarkson trade, Exum and two second-round picks is a good return. The Cavs, with where they are at, should be rolling the dice on a guy like Exum who is still young and could be still developed. Even if he plays a similar position to Garland and Sexton, he’s different enough where you could make it work.
When he gets to Cleveland, his role will be interesting. It would make sense for him to come off the bench, but he might end up working best as a backcourt mate with Sexton or Garland to offer more passing in the starting lineup. He’s not an A-list prospect at this point, but this is a worthwhile gamble in trading away a player who likely wasn’t going to be on the team next season anyway.