Aussies in NBA: The Exum-Hill Situation
The NBA season is well and truly over. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the champs. The draft finished with Ben Simmons becoming the top pick and Thon Maker surprising a fair few by going no. 10. Even Summer League has come and gone, with Simmons and Maker leaving some deep impressions.
Sadly, Dante Exum will be playing no part in the proceedings. The Utah Jazz guard chose to sit out the Olympics, to continue his rehabilitation from the ACL tear that robbed him of his second NBA season.
Now looking forward to the 2016-17 season, Exum could be facing a much different role than the one he played in his rookie season. The Jazz made a few big moves in the backcourt, first acquiring George Hill from the Indiana Pacers, then moving Trey Burke out to the Washington Wizards.
The Jazz have been right on the cusp of the playoffs for some while now, in the mix even to the last day of the regular season but always just missing out. Along with the other moves they've made to bring in Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw, this trade should finally get them over the hump.
Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto are the other point guards still on the team, but considering that the Jazz went through a whole season without really settling on either of them as their starting point, it should be safe to say that the large majority of PG minutes will be split between Exum and Hill.
It's likely this development wasn't on Dante's mind as he worked his way back over the past year. Before the trade to bring in Hill, it looked like Dante was going to automatically step right back into the starting point guard role as soon as he was medically cleared to do so.
Things have changed, however. No one trades for George Hill, a respected veteran who's been nothing but solid for some really good teams in San Antonio and Indiana, to stick him on the bench. He's starting and playing major minutes, no doubt about it. So right away, Exum's minutes are gonna take a significant hit. His starting role is likely gone too.
So, what's in it for Exum? Is he now doomed to live the life of a niche role player? Do we have an Exum-Hill Situation?
Short answer? No.
Long answer? Not only will this not stunt Dante's progression as a player, it will boost him to greater heights.
Dante has consistently been called the Jazz's point guard of the future, and this trade doesn't change that. George Hill is 30 years old and will be a free agent after the upcoming season. Even if he re-signs, he'll probably only be able to play at a high level for a year or two more at most. Dante, meanwhile, is still only 21. If his development goes as planned, he'll be ready to be the Jazz's lead guard in a couple of years' time.
The timetables of both players allow for a perfect mentor-mentee relationship. Dante himself has already spoken of his excitement with the opportunity to learn from Hill.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to be able to learn from a veteran.” Exum said. “I think it’ll be very good for us, that’s something we lack – a lot of veterans in our team.”
“I’ve been talking to Coach [Snyder] and he’s a great shooter. I’m pretty sure we’re going to play together as well. Me and him playing the one and two.”
Well that's a pretty frightening proposition for opponents. The two of them boast wingspans of 6'9", which would make for an extremely long and agile defensive backcourt. Given Hill's ability to play off-ball and knock down triples, playing the two of them together is a very viable option. Learning from the veteran doesn't have to be a strictly see-only-no-touching experience, after all.
This looks like a perfect move by Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey, one that looks to pay dividends both now and in the future. Having both Exum and Hill basically means that the PG position in Utah is locked down for the foreseeable future, with quality production guaranteed for years to come. Getting them on the floor at the same time also presents some real headaches for opponents who suddenly have to deal with the defensive backcourt equivalent of Stretch Armstrong.
This partnership has a lot of potential, either as a starter-sub combination that never lets up on the opponent or as a PG-SG partnership that wreaks defensive havoc. Throw in the valuable learning that Dante can get from him, and it's plain to see that Hill joining the Jazz and Exum is a match made in heaven.
Exum-Hill Situation? That's what opponent coaches will be scratching their heads trying to solve.