NBA Draft: Jazz Land Exum, Hood

June 27th, 2014 | by Dan Clayton
All smiles, Dante Exum looks forward to getting to work in Utah. (Getty Images)

All smiles, Dante Exum looks forward to getting to work in Utah. (Getty Images)

Twice in the first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz were looking up at players they coveted and hoping for a good bounce or two. Both times, they got the bounces.

Australian guard Dante Exum (no. 5) and Duke product Rodney Hood (23) both made their way to Utah’s spots. The Jazz happily added both players to their growing arsenal of young, promising talent.

Exum, despite being somewhat unknown, was largely considered one of the top four prospects in the draft, so grabbing him at five1 was an unexpected coup for the Jazz. Exum is lightning quick and explosive, and his real strength is that at 6-6 with legitimate point guard skills, he can be really disruptive at creating angles and exploiting his size and finishing ability. He thinks he’ll fit in Utah’s new culture, too.

“I spoke to coach (Quin Snyder) and he had a lot of positive things to say, and how he was a point guard and how he thinks he can help me, so it’s been good,” the Aussie phenom said. He mentioned specifically a desire to play an up-tempo game, something that Snyder has said he hopes to institute more, and later he told me about his comfort level in the pick-and-roll2.

The Jazz made it clear going into this draft process that they were looking for potential franchise talent. “All-stars,” Walt Perrin panned on more than one occasion to Salt Lake media. With Exum unexpectedly slipping to the fifth pick, they might have a shot at just that. Exum, though, is prepared to put in the work and let time run its course.

“That’s the future,” Exum said in response to whether he’s a franchise player in the making. “You never know what’s going to happen in the future. I take it one day at a time. I’m trying to do what I can now so I can get to that caliber… But I’m just going to work hard every day and see what happens.”

There are those who would say Exum is being overly modest here, and ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla leads that club. Fraschilla famously compared Exum to a young Michael Jordan, about the highest praise you can dole out in basketball. I had a chance to catch up with Fraschilla on draft night and ask him what he saw that prompted that parallel.

“He’s got a unique skill set, because at 6-foot-6 he can play either guard spot,” Fraschilla told me. “He’s got a chance to be better and better because he’s going to physically mature.” The analyst expects some “real ups and downs” for Exum and the Jazz starting out, but adds that “over the long haul, I think Dante Exum has the skill level, athleticism, work ethic and character to be a perfect fit in a city that loves its team.”

For all those reasons, even the modest Exum didn’t think he’d be available at the fifth pick. He mentioned that as the reason he and his agent didn’t schedule a pre-draft visit to Utah. But at the same time, he was ready for anything.

“I knew I was the mystery in this draft and I could drop,” he said. “It’s been frustrated being that mystery and having that label, but I’m over it now. Hopefully I can get out in summer league and show them I’m not a mystery anymore.”

Hood’s availability at 23 caught the Jazz by surprise as well. His projected range started at the 13th pick, and Ford’s final mock had him going 18th. I had heard that the Jazz liked him enough to consider maneuvering to get him, but that wasn’t necessary after a couple of teams made unexpected picks3 leading up to the Jazz’s spot, allowing Hood to land right where fellow Duke product Snyder wanted him.

Now Hood will travel to Salt Lake City, a city he’s never been to, to learn more about a team that he says is “right on the verge” of success. The 6-8 swingman got emotional when talking about his road from rural Mississippi to the NBA.

“Man, it’s unbelievable,” he said, choking back tears. “You think of this little kid playing in the Boys and Girls Club, wanting to be like your big brother and getting a chance to walk across that stage and give some people hope from where I’m from. It means a lot.”

Hood is a left-handed shooter with good consistency in the midrange and all the way out the three point line. He shot 42% on threes at Duke, and his free throw percentage (80%) is an good indicator that statheads use to predict how a collegian’s shot will carry over to the NBA. According to multiple draft scouting sites, he’ll need to improve his defense and work on his body.

Despite the strong projections on how his shot will translate, Hood was not a favorite of several different’ predictive models, largely because of less-than-stunning rebounding numbers and steal rate. Both are important predictive indicators that have had success at projecting success in the NBA. For those reasons, ESPN analytics guru Kevin Pelton projects that his average Win Shares over five seasons will be just a shade under zero.

That could be meaningful, but the analytics component is just one element of player evaluation. Watch his tape. This guy is a legitimate outside threat on nearly every play — the type of guy defenses have to pay attention to even off the ball. And beyond that, he just gets how to play. He’s smart, court-aware, and generally looks to make the right play. I think he will likely outperform the spreadsheets.

Interestingly, the Jazz had options at 23. Kyle Anderson, Clint Capela and several other talented prospects were still on the board, and Andy Katz reports that the Jazz also had the option to trade down to 26 with Miami, who coveted Shabazz Napier. Evidently, they had Hood ranked highly enough that they couldn’t leave him sitting there and risk him going 24th or 25th. So instead, the Jazz made their play and brought Hood to the organization.

“I’m just happy to land in a really good spot,” said Hood.

The Jazz also owned the 35th pick, but they made the pick for Memphis in exchange for a 2016 2nd round pick. Jarnell Stokes was the selection, and it appears as though the Jazz received no additional compensation.

Odds & Ends – Other notes from the draft:

  • In talking to and about Exum and Hood, I was reminded about the Gregg Popovich line about the Spurs drafting players “who have gotten over themselves.” Both come across as very humble, hard-working, unassuming types. An Australian journalist feels the same way about Exum.
  • Have you watched this yet?
  • What about this?
  • Hood grew up in Meridian, MS, about 100 miles from Al Jefferson’s hometown of Prentiss. Hood mentioned Jefferson when asked about players he admired from Mississippi.
  • The most heart-warming moment was when Adam Silver invited Baylor’s Isaiah Austin to the stage for a ceremonial NBA draft pick. Austin, a projected first rounder, had to withdraw from the draft after receiving a diagnosis that he has Marfan Syndrome, but Silver’s gesture justly garnered high marks, and Austin was cheered loudly and given a long standing ovation by the Brooklyn crowd. “It just shows how much class that man has,” Austin said. “When he did it, my head just dropped because, you know, it was almost too much for me to handle. Thankfully, he did it, and I’m thankful for it.” It was a really great moment. Austin has already received multiple job offers, including from Silver, who wants to hire him after he finishes his degree in business at Baylor.
  • Of all people, actor and musician Steve Martin probably won NBA Draft Twitter. Go figure.
  • I have said all along that I think the Jazz will make multiple moves this summer, and it sounds like they were plenty engaged tonight in a number of different scenarios. They ultimately got who they wanted without needing to deal, but they still have a depth charts that looks to be screaming out for some experience. Here is the current look at the depth chart, including players for whom the Jazz have rights of refusal/draft rights (*) and players who are unguaranteed or have a team option (**). It’s at 16 already, and extremely young and green. So I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if the Jazz started treating some of their young players like assets to put the right kind of role players around the ones that they consider their true core.
    • C: Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
    • PF: Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, Ante Tomic*, Malcolm Thomas**, Erik Murphy**
    • SF: Gordon Hayward*, Hood*
    • SG: Alec Burks, Ian Clark**
    • PG: Trey Burke, Exum*, Raul Neto*, John Lucas III**, Diante Garrett**
  • Having said that, I don’t believe for a second that the Hood selection makes Utah less likely to match an offer to Hayward. Hood could be a nice piece, but he’s rated by the GMs in Ford’s draft tier survey as a tier 4, or a guy who projects to be a rotation player or fringe starter. Hayward, as Ken Clayton and I discussed before the draft, is probably widely viewed as a  tier 2: a potential All-Star. He’ll be back.
  • While we’re on the topic, and for whatever it’s worth… Exum rated as a tier 2 also, but with several votes in tier 1 (surefire All-star/potential franchise player). I heard there are several teams that had him top 3 on their boards, and even a couple that had him in their top two at some points during the pre-draft process.
  • Having Exum-Favors-Hayward at your core might be a better start than having Jabari Parker and Hayward at your core but with no Favors. Might be. It will be interesting to see how ready Exum is. But I’m glad the Jazz got one of their top targets without having to mortgage the farm.

Click below for the above-mentioned private interview clip with Exum.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
Dan Clayton

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18 Comments

  1. Josh says:

    I think the Jazz had a great draft. It will be interesting to see who they get in free agency. I certainly don’t understand the 2nd rd pick dump for another 2nd rd pick in 2016. How many 2nd rd picks do we have coming our way in the next 2 years. I believe it is 3 or 4. I think we have GS next year and Denver for a couple years and now Memphis. We gave up an early 2nd rd pick that is most likely going to be about 10 picks later in 2016. Why not grab another International player and let them stick overseas for 2 years. Like Jokic or micic that were drafted. I understand we can only have so many young players that need playing time. It seems like an early 2nd rd pick would have better value than what we got in return. We possibly use another big man. Do we know if Tomic is going to come over yet or not? We still don’t have a stretch 4 or big man that can shoot outside or give us spacing. Will Clark and Lucas be back? With Exum, Burke and possibly Neto do we need another PG.

    • zach says:

      Although the future 2nd from Memphis will likely be later than 35, the Jazz did not have room for 3 new rookies this year. As Dan mentioned they already have 16 potential player not including 1-3 free agents/trades/veteran players they are likely adding this offseason. Jazz have 2017 first from Golden State as well as 2016 and 2017 second round, 2016 second from Memphis, and 2018 from Denver along with all of their own. Packaging some of these will help them start picking for need rather than best player. For example, next year the Jazz can offer a sign and trade with either Kanter, Burks or Evans with a 2016 second to get a pick in the lottery/teens if they see someone they like, or get a future pick. They couldnt use this second round pick this year with their current team and who they want to add this year, so finding someone to offer a future pick was a good deal.

  2. zach says:

    Now that the draft is over I am looking to see the jazz go after Gortat or Hawes to play center (Favors is a PF regardless of what the Jazz are saying), and Deng or Ariza at SF (assuming they dont match Hayward) or bringing back Williams. I dont this Kanter will be traded, but I do think he will have a break out season as a bench player with Trey Burke running the second unit, especially if he can add that 3pt he has been mentioning.

    Hawes/Gobert
    Favors/Kanter/Evans
    Deng or Hayward or Williams/Hood/Evans
    Burke/Exum/Hood
    Exum/Burks
    =10 rotation players

  3. Angie says:

    Great info! I’m jealous that you got to be there but what an exciting opportunity.

  4. UtahsMrSports says:

    Thrilled with our draft. If you had told me before the draft that we would walk away with Exum and Hood plus a future second rounder without surrendering anything, I would have called you nuts.

  5. Paul Johnson says:

    I also don’t understand what the Jazz were thinking in “dumping” the #35 pick. Even if the Jazz didn’t want to keep three rookies, certainly Walter Tavares (who could be stashed in Europe for a couple of years), or Jerami Grant, are much more valuable trade pieces than the #50 draft pick in 2016. A high second round pick in a deep draft like the 2014 draft is the equivalent of a draft pick in the #20 to #25 range in most ordinary drafts. I also heard that most of the picks in the #25-30 range were “available” in a trade. You would think that the Jazz could have probably worked out a trade to get into the tail end of the first round of the draft to pick up C.J. Wilcox, who is a solid shooting guard in every way–who can really shoot–and could have helped the Jazz at a very low cost (he is also from Utah, so he would be at home with the Jazz).

    As for not having enough room on the Jazz team for 3 rookies–the Jazz could send have sent the player selected with the #35 pick to the D-league or left him overseas. 5 of the “potential” 2014-2014 Jazz players are on non-guaranteed contracts, and are probably not worth bringing back, unless the Jazz have no better option. Who would you rather have on the team at a contract between $800,000 and $1 mil.–Jerami Grant, Walter Tavares or C.J. Wilcox, or John Lucas III, Diante Garrett, Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy or Ian Clark. Those last few roster spots have to filled by someone–it would be better to fill one of those positions with someone who has first round talent, and who could develop into an NBA starter or a valuable role player, than someone who will always be on the fringe of the league.

    There is no other way to put it than that was a really stupid move by the Jazz, which wasted a valuable asset. It ranks right up there with the Jazz’s bonehead move of refusing to trade Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, when the Jazz could have at least obtained some type of draft pick for those two players.

    I love the Rodney Hood selection at #23. I think he will be much better than projected. I am holding my breath on Dante Exum. I sure hope Exum becomes as good as expected. Otherwise, the Jazz may have really botched this draft by passing up a sure thing in Marcus Smart.

    • Josh says:

      Paul, I agree with you except trading back into the 1st rd, may not have been a good idea. At pick 35 we had plenty of options besides dump the pick for a later 2nd rd pick. 2nd rd picks are always a big question mark, sometimes you find the diamond in the rough, but most of the time they don’t make the team, but a top 5 2nd rd pick would seem the odds would go up. A draft and stash made the most sense.
      I am guessing the jazz didn’t want any more players because they might be required to do something in FA to hit the minimum salary cap numbers.

    • zach says:

      I agree that they could have done better with the pick in a trade, but feel the best option was to move the pick. All those players you mentioned (Jerami Grant, Walter Tavares or C.J. Wilcox, or John Lucas III, Diante Garrett, Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy or Ian Clark) will not help the Jazz get to the playoffs in the 1-3 years. Out of those 5 current Jazz players I would be surprised if more than 1 of them makes the team, even to fill an end of bench role. Three rookies (or 4-5 if you count Neto/Tomic) on a team with 2 soph (Gobert/Burke), 2 3rd year (Kanter/Burks, and 2 4th year (Hayward/Favors) is too young, with 3-5 years of development necessary. The Jazz dont want to just fill roster spots, they are looking to put together a winning team as early as next year. A better move could have been made, but only 4-5 second round players moved, so options may not have been available and this was the best one they could find on draft night. Overall, nobody can disagree that it was a great night for the Jazz.

  6. Tyler Barton says:

    Good Stuff Dan; getting Exum at 5 makes last year totally worth it; considering they have multiple picks in the next 2 years it’s only going to get mo better from here; Still a long year next year and decisions to be made but I can’t wait to see Exum and the Runners

  7. Jazz4Life says:

    The potential of having a starting lineup (give or take a different center or pf from free agency) of:
    PG: Trey Burke
    SG (combo guard): Dante Exum
    SF: Hayward
    PF: Favors
    C: Kanter

    with a second unit of Alec Burks, Hood, Gobert, Evans, and Neto… That is an intriguing lineup for the future. I think that it will take a year of development and getting everyone used to things, but now, with Exum and Hood, the scoring isn’t place exclusively on Hayward and Burke.

  8. UtahsMrSports says:

    I may get barbecued for saying this, but in my opinion, I would be surprised if Dante Exum averaged any more than 15 minutes per game next year. Anything more than that would be fantastic. We need to pace ourselves. He is likely at least 2 years from even being a starter.

    • Erik says:

      He’s *very* young and inexperienced. Can’t see him as a day one starter and he probably won’t be one of the first few off the bench. But that should change over the first few months. If he doesn’t get more than Diante Garrett minutes then either he’s not even close to ready or the coaches didn’t do well finding him time.

      Enes Kanter didn’t even get 15 as a rookie and Hayward only a bit more than that, but that was on better, or at least more experienced teams.

      You may be about right for the season, but I hope that he’s getting 20+ minutes per game the 2nd half of the season.

  9. Clint Johnson says:

    For what it’s worth, I know of at least two NBA scouts who said (anonymously) Exum wasn’t top three selection material but also has more superstar potential than Jabari Parker. I think the majority opinion throughout the league would be that, in terms of sheer upside, Exum and Favors clearly is better than Parker.

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  11. LKA says:

    I too found it hard to take about the second round pick and trade. But fans do not understand all the ins and outs of the process. So I guess they did the best they could. Got a question. Lets say Hayward really wants to play for Brad stevens. He could accept the Qualifying Offer and be a UFA next year. Correct??

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