The Jazz selected Dante Exum with the fifth overall pick in last summer’s draft, and many believed that he’d have a chance to one day be one of the league’s special players.
He hasn’t shown it consistently yet during his rookie season, however, and now that we’ve reached the halfway point, fatigue is becoming a factor in further hindering his development.
Exum doesn’t rank inside the top 10 in NBA.com’s most recent Rookie Ladder, and his numbers have dipped since the calendar flipped to 2015. He may be feeling the effects of the dreaded rookie wall — even if that’s something his head coach refuses to admit even exists.
“You talked about the rookie wall …,” a reporter said to the coach, attempting to preface a question before being cut off.
“You talked about it,” the coach chimed in. “I said it doesn’t exist. … The more guys accept that it’s real, it can be self-fulfilling.”
Exum’s recent struggles, however, are real.
He scored 13 points against the Hawks on Jan. 2, and then again two games later against the Pacers. But Exum combined for only 13 points in his other seven games this month.
Exum called the grind of the NBA season “more mentally fatiguing” than physically draining, and has seen it play out more than once when he thought he was doing the right thing, only to see later on film that he was not.
Exum’s minutes are up in January to 20.1 per contest, his field goal percentage is 10 points behind his December average at just 31.3 percent, and his three-point shooting is down 14 percentage points to a dismal 24.4 percent.
The struggle for Exum at this point of the season is real, even if the so-called rookie wall, at least in his coach’s eyes, is not.