2014 NBA Draft

The international point guard of mystery is headed to Utah

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NEW YORK –  The first step of Dante Exum’s NBA career was taken when he was selected by the Utah Jazz with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.  If you’re uncertain of Exum’s ability to play in the NBA, you might as well hop on board with quite a few other people who are unsure of how the skill set of the 18-year old point guard will transfer over from Australia to The Association.

Exum is a silky smooth 6’6” point guard with Youtube compilations that will make you drool. He can make quick sharp decisions off of the dribble. His first step is incredibly fast and he basically glides to the rim as if he were on skates. When Exum gets into the lane, he has the ability to finish thanks to his long frame.

The beauty of Exum’s game isn’t just his ability on the offensive end, it’s also in his defensive instincts and fundamentals. His 6’ 9.5” wingspan allows him to guard players on the wing who are much bigger and his absurdly good footwork allows him to stay in front of the guy with the ball.

I told you it was easy to fall in love with him, but the four teams in front of the Jazz clearly didn’t love him enough to take a chance on someone who has a giant unknown sticker with the Australian flag stamped on it. There are legitimate questions about the lack of talent he played against over in Australia and his inconsistent play in the U19 FIBA World Championships, which definitely played into the reason why he wasn’t higher up on team’s draft boards.

Exum worked out for only three teams during the scouting process, the Sixers, Bucks and Magic. Notice the team who selected him isn’t in that group, so why didn’t he work out for the Jazz?

“Looking at the Draft and where I was placed, me and my agent thought that I wouldn’t get down to 5,” Exum said after being selected by Utah. ”But anything happens in the Draft, and you see I’m lucky enough that Utah believed in me and pick me up at 5.”

The Jazz are just one year removed from selecting Trey Burke, a point guard, with the ninth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Burke had a decent rookie campaign (13 points per game and almost six assists), but he didn’t set the world on fire by any means, which is the theme of last year’s draft.

This won’t be the first time Exum has been placed on a team with other quality point guards.

“The Australian team, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova, and I’m in that system, and those are both point guards. So you work around it,” he said.

Obviously the Australian team and an NBA franchise are extremely different, but the idea of a two point guard backcourt isn’t something that is some far-fetched idea. The role of the shooting guard is morphing. The two-guard is no longer just someone who needs to be able to put the ball in the basket; they have to be able to handle the ball. The key is being able to balance how much the two guys will handle the ball when they’re on the floor together, which is something Exum and Burke have already talked about.

“I already spoke to him, and he’s excited to have me, and I’m excited to be there,” Exum said. “I know we’re both going to give up something a little so everyone’s happy. “

The one thing the Jazz can’t do is put up another wasteland year offensively. Only the Bulls were worse than the Jazz in points per game last season, which is something that Exum believes could change under new head coach Quin Snyder.

“They got a new coach now, so I’m sure it’s going to be a different system. I like to play up and down and kind of find my guys in transition,” he said. “I think the coach being a point guard, he’s going to know how to utilize me and Trey.”

If Snyder doesn’t, it could be another long season for the Jazz.

Twitter: @Scottdargis

Add Kobe Bryant to don’t change hack-a-player crowd

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant gestures after hitting a three point shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.

Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”

Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.

Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.

Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)

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On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.

Ooof.

LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.

Karl-Anthony Towns with nasty poster dunk on Dante Cunningham (VIDEO)

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Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.

While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.

Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.

Report: Come 2017, Knicks have real shot to land Russell Westbrook

during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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.
Russell Westbrook
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The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.

But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.

In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.

The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.

Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.

Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.

And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.