After a quiet 2016/17 season, Dante Exum came back into the Utah Summer League, showing marked improvement on almost every facet possible.
He finished better at the rim, he shot well, even from the three-point line. It wasn't just one-dimensional scoring either; Exum showed signs of being a consistent playmaker.
It's not hard to imagine him playing behind Ricky Rubio, as a reserve point guard.
That's not the end goal. Not for Exum.
“I definitely want to start,” Exum said, in a recent interview with The Telegraph's Matt Logue.
“But my biggest goal is to get playing time and keep staying on the court, and doing whatever I can to help the team win."
We've all heard about the Jazz's challenge to Exum, and it's encouraging to see how he has risen to the occasion.
"I think [my form at Summer League] was just a complement to the work I’ve put into the off-season.
“I work harder and harder every summer. Going through the ACL rehab was a tough time, but I worked hard to get through that.
“Now that I’m here, hopefully I can have a good off-season.”
It was evident that Exum's shooting had gotten a lot better. The shooting motion looked considerably smoother, he was confident pulling up on his jumpers. It was just a testament to all the hours of work he had put in, some of it at the Open Gym Premier in Orange County (more videos).
“I did a lot of shooting,” Exum said. “I also did plenty of jump shots and pretty much anything that can help my game on the offensive end, things like foot speed and total overall strength.”
We're not taking away credit from Exum's commitment and desire to improve, but it's probably safe to say Baron Davis had a firm hand in Exum's Summer League success.
Like Exum, he's been through the same ACL recovery journey, and is ready to share what he knows with the young Jazz guard.
“For [Exum], just really looking at his speed, and where his best assets and attributes are, and then working around that, and then adding things to it," Davis said, during a Summer League in-game interview.
"It’s a confidence thing, but it’s also getting in and doing the work, and then him being receptive to a lot of the stuff. A lot of the moves that we tried, he’s using it out here and it’s working.”
Exum on the other hand, has looked upon Davis as a role model, one whom he aspires to be like, especially when it comes to being a point guard.
“Definitely that point guard game. I think, the way he’s able to get into the paint and find guys. I played a couple of pickup games with him. I said to him after I played. I said,’Baron, you weren’t even looking at me and I was open. I knew the ball was coming to me.’
“That’s something I definitely want to develop, where if a guy’s open on the court, they know that ball’s coming to them.”
Following the Jazz's final win in the Utah Summer League, Exum has promised to return to the US for more off-season work, after a short break back home in Australia.
The hunger is real; he's ready for more and and he's putting in the work that's needed. It's too early to say what success looks like for Dante Exum, but we do know one thing - he's locked in, and he's ready to do what it takes to make it happen.
Go get 'em, Exum.