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Mailbag: What do the Cavs think of Dante Exum?

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It’s tough to figure out the oft-injured guard.

Cleveland Cavaliers v LA Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

From Trevor B: How big of a role could Exum play? Legit “core” backup guard for a playoff caliber team? What’s the organizations view of him?

Other than trading for Andre Drummond at the deadline last year, the Cavs trading for Dante Exum was one of their other major moves. Like Drummond, Cleveland is still figuring out what Exum’s long term fit is with the organization going forward. But, unlike Drummond, Exum had more than a month’s head start after joining the Cavs.

Unfortunately, just like the majority of his NBA career, injuries have kept Exum in street clothes and glued to Cleveland’s bench during his tenure with the team. Since joining the Cavs, Exum has only played 68% of the time. In those appearances, Exum averaged 5.6 points on 47.9% shooting to go with 2.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 0.5 steals. At first, he appeared shaky but when he finally found a rhythm he was able to show why the Jazz selected him fifth-overall in 2014:

But, right after that game against the Timberwolves, Exum was again sidelined with injury and was unable to build off the momentum. His next quality appearances didn’t come until over a month later, when he posted 14 points and 8 rebounds in a loss to the Miami Heat.

That’s the thing with Exum — it’s hard to gauge what the organization probably feels about him. When healthy, he’s a big-bodied combo guard that can play both in relief and in tandem of both Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Exum covers both Sexton and Garland’s lumps defensively and as playmakers as well. The fit on paper works out beautifully and considering Exum is only 25 years old, he fits into the team’s timeline as well. But, it’s just hard to put the theory of Exum into execution if his body doesn’t allow him to do so.

So heading into the 2020-21 campaign, where Exum will be on the final year of his current contract, Cleveland will likely keep evaluating him and his fit within the organization. If he does stay healthy and looks great alongside Sexton and Garland, it would make sense for the Cavaliers to sign him long term. But, it would also be remiss of the Cavs to not capitalize on Exum being healthy and see his value on the trade market as well. To answer your question, he could be a solid contributor off the bench for a contender if he were traded.

It took Cleveland just Jordan Clarkson’s expiring contract to obtain Exum along with two future second-round picks. If he’s healthy, the Cavs could likely get a better package in return of what they received if they were to flip him to a contender. If Exum doesn’t stay healthy, and it’s hard to stay optimistic about his chances, then he’s likely an expiring contract the Cavs will use in a deal to acquire more assets.