Aussies in Summer League: Exum breaks out, sprains ankle

It may only be the first game of Summer League, but the signs for Dante Exum heading into the new NBA season are exciting.

He finished the game with 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists while leading the Utah Jazz to a 100-82 victory over the Boston Celtics.

It wasn’t just about the stats he put up in this game that drew excitement, but rather the manner in which they were accumulated. Exum was in attack mode throughout, putting on an aggressive and confident display we have not seen from him so far in the NBA. His 10 free throw attempts highlighted his willingness to attack the basket at every opportunity.

The question has never about ability with Exum; you can see talent dripping off him each time he takes the court. In the early days, it was about his mindset and having the confidence to play his game against the best players in the world. For a player blessed with elite quickness and agility, Exum rarely showed his best attributes as a rookie, preferring to spot up above the 3-point line rather than attack the giants in the paint.

After adding 6 pounds of muscle over the off-season, his confidence in making plays around the rim looks to have blossomed. Against the Celtics his quick first step allowed him to pass the first line of defense with ease. From there he found open men, scored points and drew fouls at will.

It’s the type of game that Exum supporters have believed he could produce, and it’s the way he needs to play if he is to reach his potential as a player.

With his confidence growing with each foray into the paint, and the game mere minutes from the coming to an end, misfortune struck when he badly rolled his ankle on this drive.

While the injury might keep him out of the next few games of Summer League, it doesn’t appear to be long term.

Exum had a fascinating duel with the Celtics’ Marcus Smart, who was taken one pick after Exum in the 2014 draft at number 6, and the two point guards were going toe-to-toe for much of the game. Smart finished the game with 26 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds of his own, while playing his usual robust defense.

Australian Brock Motum also suited up for the Jazz after impressing the team during last Summer League, only to be waived days before the season to make room for Joe Ingles. He managed 4 points, 3 assists and 8 rebounds in a solid display which included this nice little floater.


Full Exum highlights

Jayme Markus

Written by

Baller all my life, Mad about the NBA, Lover of Haikus

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