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

51 Q: Tom Thibodeau can coach, is he ready to run a franchise?

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 12: Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls yells to his players in the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game Five in the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena on May 12, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Bulls 106-101. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Minnesota Timberwolves were probably not going to get Tom Thibodeau without the promise of organizational control. After his contentious relationship with the Bulls’ front office led to his exit after five seasons in Chicago, he took a year-long sabbatical from coaching and observed how other organizations run their operations from both a coaching and a front-office standpoint. He was in high demand as a coaching free agent and could essentially name his price, and if he wanted personnel control too, he could have it. That’s what ended up happening in Minnesota, and Thibodeau will be the latest test case in whether the two-in-one model works. Thibodeau’s coaching ability is indisputable. How he’ll fare as an executive is a different question entirely.

The Timberwolves had a solid offseason after a rumored draft-night trade for Jimmy Butler fell apart. Given Thibodeau’s history of stubbornness and intractability, it was a valid fear that he’d take the same approach to roster-building as his former mentor Doc Rivers has in Los Angeles, simply bringing back all of his old mainstays from the Bulls days. With Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol and Kirk Hinrich on the market, the opportunity was there to get the band back together, spending too much money in the process and hindering the development of maybe the most promising young core in the NBA in the name of more wins in the short term.

But Thibodeau didn’t do that. Instead, he and GM Scott Layden plugged some holes with value deals. Getting Cold Aldrich for three years at $22 million gives them a more than serviceable backup center, and they landed Brandon Rush on a one-year deal for $3.5 million to provide some outside shooting. They didn’t do anything to sacrifice long-term flexibility and didn’t sign anyone that will get in the way of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins or Zach LaVine getting plenty of playing time.

The idea of a coach making personnel decisions is a dicey one for several reasons, not least of which being that it’s harder to have the emotional detachment to trade a player if you see them every day in practice. But the Chicago team Thibodeau inherited in 2010 was a readymade contender that needed a coaching upgrade. This Minnesota team isn’t there yet, and even his ability to get more wins than expected out of any roster he’s given won’t make them truly competitive in the upper echelon of the Western Conference playoff picture, at least not yet. So far, his moves reflect an understanding of that reality.

The first big roster decision Thibodeau will have to make during the season will be the point guard situation. Thibodeau loves Kris Dunn, whom he drafted at No. 5 overall in June, and Dunn provides shooting that Ricky Rubio does not. If Dunn takes the starting spot in training camp, Thibodeau will have to look long and hard at moving Rubio. Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad could also wind up on the block, depending on how the rotation shakes out, and how Thibodeau fares at getting a return on his trades will be worth monitoring.

With that said, it’s pretty hard to screw up a core that includes Wiggins and Towns, and Thibodeau seems to know what he has in those two. As long as he can put complementary pieces around them and keep their development up to pace on the court, this experiment should prove to be a success.

Julius Randle lacerates hand, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

Julius Randle
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Julius Randle suffered a season-ending injury in his first NBA game.

His third pro season includes an even earlier setback.

Lakers release:

Lakers forward Julius Randle suffered a laceration to his right hand (webbing between middle and ring fingers) yesterday while practicing. He received seven stitches and will be re-evaluated in approximately 14 days.

Thankfully, this doesn’t sound as major and happened well before training camp. Even if he needs twice as long to heal after his announced reevaluation, he’ll be ready for the preseason.

The key is getting Randle fully recovered. His ball-handling ability for a power forward is a key facet to his game, and a cut in his hand could impede it.

NBA rookies name Kevin Durant their favorite player

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 07:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors poses with his new jersey during the press conference where he was introduced as a member of the Golden State Warriors after they signed him as a free agent on July 7, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Kevin Durant faced tremendous backlash for leaving the Thunder for the Warriors.

But not from NBA rookies.

In the league’s annual rookie survey, a plurality of first-year players voted Durant their favorite player:

1. Kevin Durant, Golden State — 29.7%

T-2. Carmelo Anthony, New York — 9.4%

LeBron James, Cleveland — 9.4%

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City — 9.4%

T-5. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio — 6.3%

Kobe Bryant (retired) — 6.3%

Paul George, Indiana — 6.3%

Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers — 6.3%

T-9. Kevin Garnett, Minnesota — 4.7%

Others receiving votes: Vince Carter, Memphis; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Marc Gasol, Memphis; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland

This is the third straight year Durant has claimed the top spot, matching LeBron and Kobe for combined wins in the six years this question was asked of rookies:

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This is further evidence: If you resent Kevin Durant for exercising his right to switch employers after nine years with a company that acquired him by producing an awful product, you’re out of touch. Follow the kids’ lead and get with it.

Jason Terry: Luke Walton ‘utterly declined’ my offer to provide Lakers veteran leadership

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 19:  Guard Jason Terry #31 of the Dallas Mavericks takes a shot against Luke Walton #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers at American Airlines Center on January 19, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Before signing with the Bucks, Jason Terry said he reached out to multiple contenders.

He also spoke with the Lakers.

Terry tried to leverage his relationship with Lakers coach Luke Walton, who also played at Arizona (though their time there didn’t overlap).

Terry on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

I called my good friend Luke. I told him if he needed any help, veteran leadership, in that capacity – Lakers – with an ability to coach at the end of my deal, then that was something I would be looking forward to. He utterly declined, and I respect him for that.

Gotta love a guy who announces to the world his pitch of providing veteran leadership was “utterly declined.”

The Lakers should be just fine with Jose Calderon and Luol Deng.