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

PBT Extra: How big a threat are Pelicans to Warriors?

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Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans were the surprise of the first round of the NBA playoffs. We knew they were good, but they looked dominant on both ends sweeping the three-seed Portland Trail Blazers right out of the postseason (and into a somber period of reflection).

New Orleans looked like the best team in the West in the first round and now they take all that momentum to Golden State where… let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In this PBT Extra I discuss how the Pelicans have found an identity, but the matchups against Warriors are dramatically more challenging than what they saw in Portland. And that’s before Stephen Curry returns to the fold.

The Pelicans are a great story, but the pecking order in the West is real for good reason.

Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee undergoes surgery to fix core-muscle injury

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DENVER — Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee underwent surgery to fix a core-muscle injury.

The team said Plumlee had the procedure performed Thursday morning by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia.

Plumlee is expected to return to basketball activities this summer and be ready for training camp in the fall. He averaged 7.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists for a Nuggets team that narrowly missed out on the postseason.

The 28-year-old Plumlee was acquired by Denver as part of a deal in February 2017 that sent center Jusuf Nurkic to Portland. Plumlee signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Nuggets last September.

 

PBT Extra: Spurs many off-season questions start with Kawhi Leonard

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San Antonio has a lot of roster questions heading into this summer. When Danny Green opts out at $10 million a year, how much do they offer to bring back a key wing defender? What about Tony Parker, an unrestricted free agent? Will Manu Ginobili come back at age 78 41 for another season?

But at the top of the list: Can the Spurs relationship with Kawhi Leonard be repaired?

If so, do they trust his health enough to offer him the $219 million designated veteran max extension?

If not, do they test the trade market (likely we will know the answer to that around the draft, well before July 1)?

I get into all of it in this latest PBT Extra.

NBA makes it official: LeBron did goaltend on Oladipo’s final shot

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Ultimately, this is moot. Nothing changes — not the critical last Pacers possession, not the fact LeBron James drained a three afterwards (and may well have anyway). All it provides is a little validation for frustrated Pacers fans and players.

Yes, LeBron did goaltend on Victor Oladipo‘s shot with 5.1 seconds remaining in what was then a tie game between the Pacers and Cavaliers. The NBA confirmed it in its Last Two Minute Report on Game 5 in that series. From the report.

“(Above the rim view) shows that James (CLE) blocks Oladipo’s (IND) shot attempt after it makes contact with the backboard.”

Oladipo called it goaltending. However, the officials didn’t call goaltending on the play, therefore it was not reviewable. Often on bang-bang plays like this one an official will call goaltending just to give themselves the chance to review it, but this crew did not (and that is a tough call to make accurately in real time).

From there, LeBron went on to hit the dramatic game-winning three that gave Cleveland the win and a 3-2 series lead.

The report also concluded that it was Thaddeus Young who knocked the ball out of bounds on the baseline with 27.6 seconds left, knocking the ball out of LeBron’s hands. The ball bounced on the line — and was therefore out, but the official didn’t call it — then bounced back up, hit LeBron on the arm and went clearly out of bounds. The referee called the second bounce after it hit LeBron. From the report:

“(Video) shows that Young (IND) deflects the ball away from James (CLE) and it lands out of bounds, but there is no whistle. The ball then bounces and hits James’ arm and lands out of bounds again, which is called. Possession of the ball is incorrectly awarded to the Pacers.”

One other note to Pacers fans: The goaltending call is not why Indiana lost. Oladipo shot 2-of-15 on the night. Darren Collison had a very an off night, was not aggressive, and was 1-of-5 shooting. There are a myriad of plays and decisions that go into a game, one blown call is not why the Pacers lost.

The question is can they regroup at home, get more secondary playmaking and buckets from someone other Oladipo, and can their defense force a Game 7? It can, but they have to put the end of Game 5 behind them first.