*Updated* SC7: Why Exum’s Still Central, Shelvin Mack and More

February 18th, 2016 | by Dan Clayton
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Here we go again.

The Jazz are about to kick their basketball machine back into action, but first we have some business to resolve in this trade deadline edition of the Salt City Seven.

Along with our usual items, this week’s SC7 will give you some thoughts around the trade deadline and the acquisition of Shelvin Mack. And we’ll start with a player that, sadly, we’ve discussed very little this season.

big picture

It has been impossible to discuss the deadline rumors or even broad Jazz trade goals without stumbling sideways into a discussion of just what Dante Exum’s potential is.

Even outside the context of trade discussions, one of the most frequent questions I get from Jazz tweeps is, “How good can this guy be?”

It’s a totally valid question, and the reality is that we don’t know yet. His defense alone has set a baseline where, at the very least, he’s going to enjoy a long NBA career as a long, active pest shutting down perimeter routes and getting in passing lanes. But there’s a chance he’s much better than that, and the Jazz are real believers.

When questioned on this privately, I tend to point to three reasons that I’ve heard make the Jazz excited about where Exum is potentially headed.

  1. Physical tools. This is the stuff that made him a 5th pick to begin with: his size, his 6’9″ wingspan, his speed, his handles. His north-south quickness was talked about a ton going into the ’14 Draft, but it turns out he’s also really good laterally, which has been a key reason he’s been able to bottle up a lot of guards off the dribble or in pick-and-roll situations. He’s not necessarily a leaper, but he’s an athlete, and before the injury, he was starting to really get how to leverage things like a change of speed move. Physically, he’s really unique for his position.
  2. Smarts. Exum has a good feel for the game, something that we started to see on display once the game slowed down as his rookie year went along. He has good basketball instincts, and is a quick study. The Jazz have liked that he immediately soaks up direction from the staff and rarely has to be told twice what his role is on a particular set. That bodes well. A good example of this is the “third defender” read they started focusing in on last spring. As we covered back then, that instruction paid pretty quick dividends because of Dante’s basketball IQ. And he makes decisions at a different pace, something that allowed the Jazz a different dimension last year.
  3. “Insides.” From little comments the Jazz have made here and there, it sounds as though they see some of that same Rudy Gobert-like pathological competitiveness, a desire to be great that’s hard to teach. Coach Quin Snyder has seen that in Dante, as GM Dennis Lindsey related to the Deseret News. “(W)hen we have people calling us for Dante Exum, Quin has stopped that,” Lindsey said. “He’s like, ‘I believe in him. I believe in his makeup. I believe in his insides.’ I can just tick that off.”

So when you hear the talk that Utah is committed to Exum as the club’s starter, that’s completely true.

It still makes sense that they wanted to add depth to the position, especially with Trey Burke’s future in question. Maybe the Jazz could have made a bigger splash, but in isolation, getting Mack for a second-rounder is a good deal. The Jazz have more seconds than they could possibly use anyway1, and only a fraction of guys selected in the second-round hang around to play the 247 games Mack has appeared in.

The Jazz were broadly expected to upgrade the position in more dramatic ways, such as when ESPN is reported that “the Jazz have looked at potential deals for other veteran point guards” beyond the Ty Lawson rumor. It’s hard to judge their decision to turn down other options without knowing precisely a) what other options were available to them and b) at what cost.

For example, USA Today reports that the Hawks’ asking price for Jeff Teague was a starter and a first round pick. Setting aside the question of whether or not the Jazz would surrender a pick for 14 months of Teague2, there’s no way Utah was including Exum, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert. Maybe — maybe — they could have convinced the Hawks that while Burks is not a starter, he plays starter minutes and is a 14-point scorer. But even giving up Burks and a first is a steep price.

Who knows what teams were asking for the similar tier of guards with time remaining: George Hill, Jrue Holiday3, Ricky Rubio, Darren Collison, Goran Dragic, Brandon Jennings, Avery Bradly, etc., or if they were even on the table at all.

It seems like someone like Jose Calderon should have been available as more of a salary mitigation move that wouldn’t require a Burks-level player at the other end of the deal. But maybe not. JJ Barea and Devin Harris both have multiple years left and are positionally redundant. Could one of them have been available? What about Greivis Vasquez, who is reportedly approaching a return and could help cheaply for two months? CJ Watson has a year left and Brian Roberts was dealt twice today essentially for free, but did the Jazz consider them upgrades over Raul Neto and Burke?

The Mack deal could mean the Jazz simply were impressed enough with any of those options to give what was necessary. It could mean they’ll try again to find a serious rotation PG this summer, when the market behaves differently.

But whatever it means, the Jazz are uber-committed to and strongly believe in Dante Exum.

quotable

“The market spoke about what we had in a lot of different levels… (We) agreed that we wanted to err toward continuity and chemistry,.”

Dennis Lindsey, to KSL and SCH’s Andy Larsen

“The market spoke” is an interesting way to put it. He’s definitely making a commentary on the Jazz’s trade assets — or at least the ones they were willing to include in conversations. He made a similar comment on team radio that leads me to believe that what happened today is that the only players teams wanted to discuss were the ones Lindsey wasn’t letting go of.

Honestly, this might be an explanation on why Burke wasn’t dealt despite rumors that the Jazz had told his representation they’d look into it. It seems as though the Jazz were determined not to give Burke away, and that sentiment combined with Lindsey’s cryptic “market spoke” comments lead me to believe that Burke is just still not drawing serious offers from other teams.

So, the Jazz are left with the awkwardness of finishing the season with a player who had expressed a desire to go elsewhere. It might be good asset management, but hopefully it doesn’t backfire in terms of the locker room.

xohhh

Since there’s no new Jazz action to break down since we last convened, we’ll use this space to take a quick glimpse at some of what the new guy brings with him. Make sure to check out David Smith’s fuller introduction to Shelvin.

His action has been limited thus far, but Mack’s real strength is his ability to create and attack within the pick & roll. Here are a few of his assists that came out of P&R out front.

The first two are great because he makes pretty bold passes. On the Horford three, he actually starts to deliver that bounce pass before Horford has even spotted up, and the bounce pass buys Al an extra beat to get in position. That’s smart stuff.

For the most part, he just simply makes the right read. The third one – the rolling layup – is mostly because Dwight botches a weakside help assignment, but props to Mack for noticing that and delivering the ball on time and on target. The final two are pretty straightforward plays, too. See what the help does, see if anybody else adjusts to help cover, and then pass accordingly.

bynumbers

2.7

Mack’s assist-to-turnover ratio. As mentioned above, the guys makes mostly smart decisions.

45%

The percentage of Mack’s shots that come from 0 to 9 feet, where he makes 63% of his attempts. That’s a good thing, especially since he’s not a very good three point shooter — 15% this year.

And finally…

Source: http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=0&p1=macksh01&y1=2016&p2=burketr01&y2=2016&y3=2016&p3=netora01&p4=&p5=&p6=#advanced::none

Source: B-Ref[ref]http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=0&p1=macksh01&y1=2016&p2=burketr01&y2=2016&y3=2016&p3=netora01&p4=&p5=&p6=#advanced::none[/ref]

Just a reminder that Burke and Neto are probably still better than Mack on a macro level. It’s nice to have another option when somebody is struggling or in foul trouble or has the flu, but I think the Jazz just acquired an upgrade at 3rd PG, at least for now.

gameball

Hopefully this will be the last Salt City Seven for a while that doesn’t feature new game balls. But hey, just so everybody’s caught up, here’s the tally coming out of the All-Star break:

26-26 at the break

26-26 at the break

theroadahead

The Jazz’s stretch run starts with a tough run right out of the gate. All four opponents are in the roughly-.500-or-better range, so stretches like this will determine if Utah’s able to finish something like 15-15, or actually outperform and chase the 6th or even 5th seed. For more facts & figures resetting the West playoff race, make sure you revisit last week’s SC7 breaking down the schedules of Utah and the five teams right around them.

  • at Washington (Thursday). Turns out the blizzard didn’t help the Jazz much after all.
  • Boston (Friday). The downside of the Wiz reschedule is that it takes an already tough game and turns it into the second half of a pretty grueling back-to-back. They have to cover 1,800+ miles between the final buzzer on Thursday and Friday’s tip-off, but at least it’s East-to-West travel so they won’t be fighting against time zones.
  • at Portland (Sunday). Having dropped a home game to the Blazers, the Jazz need to get this one back in order to avoid losing the season series. Even if they steal one at Moda Center to tie things up, Portland has a huge advantage in the division record tiebreaker.
  • Houston (Tuesday). This is the only game on the Jazz’s slate for the week where FiveThirtyEight has them as favorites4. The Rox might have gotten slightly less deep on Thursday, too. Donatas Motiejunas was already out, but Marcus Thornton has been playing an important reserve role, and they’ll be without him. I guess the Jazz might have to face Joel Anthony5.

justforfun

It wouldn’t really be a weekly recap if we didn’t acknowledge the Jazz’s role in All-Star weekend.

Neto dished nine assists to his World Team brethren in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge last Friday, and he made his only FG attempt. Trey Lyles, a native of All-Star host Canada, struggled a bit more, scoring a bucket in six attempts and grabbing two rebounds. Hood played a major role for the winning US team: four dunks and a triple for 11 points, to go with three assists and three boards.

It was also cool to see Rudy Gobert there to take in the festivities and support his teammates.

SC7 archives: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15

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, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops and BBALLBreakdown.
Dan Clayton

3 Comments

  1. Chuck says:

    Dan, thanks for making your strong insights into DE. Since I first saw him in the hs all-star games I felt he had the package to be a star. But most draft its are superficial, and as they did to Porzingis they evaluate a player by reputation rather than by projection as he matures. On offense Dante can go quickly to either side, and with his height he can easily see over his man in passing. That is why Gobert had so many easy baskets last year.

    Assuming he is fully recovered he will make the Jazz a much better team, and now that Hood has progressed I think DE will average at least 8 assists. And if he forgets about the contact he should average 12-15 points per. Thanks again. Chuck, also a huge Ben Simmins fan

  2. IDJazzman says:

    Thanks for the Exum coverage, great stuff. I think a lot of fans don’t realize how special this kid could be, especially when he shied away from playing on the offensive end his first year. The Jazz really don’t have a take over the game type player yet, nor anything near a super star. I think Exum will be the Jazz’s best chance of getting that elite player, but the patience waiting for him to develop can be so painful sometimes.

  3. Pingback: Hill Gives the Jazz An Interesting Year | Salt City Hoops

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *