Gordon Hayward's exit might end up being a good thing for Dante Exum.
Hayward announced his decision to join the Boston Celtics earlier, in a piece on The Players' Tribune titled "Thank You, Utah".
It's no surprise that Hayward's departure from the Utah Jazz, weakens their playoffs prospects for the next season.
Last season, Hayward --who recorded the second most passes on the team, behind Rudy Gobert-- was featured as a primary playmaker. The gap Hayward leaves behind opens up developmental opportunities for everyone left on the team, especially their young guards, but the biggest beneficiary might turn out to be Dante Exum.
Exum, who started the Utah Summer League with a dominant performance yesterday, showed aggression and confidence in his offence.
He's shown that he can score, but it's still too early to tell if he's ready to be a playmaker.
Ricky Rubio could offer mentorship, but it all comes down to playing reps. It's not even a debate about whether Exum should be the starting guard. At this point, it's just about being a capable point guard who can run the team's offence. When Exum is on the court, he needs to be actively involved as the primary ball handler, be it running offensive sets, or slicing defenses from the pick and roll. His instincts have to be honed, and there's no better way to do it, than to play against actual competition. Dante Exum needs more minutes as a playmaker, if he's to survive and thrive in this coming season.
The Jazz suffered a loss with Hayward leaving, but all is not lost. They have a young core that could still get better with Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors and Exum. Rubio is an excellent point guard, and let's not forget about the remaining veterans like Joe Ingles, Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson, who can and will help shore the gap.
Depending on what the Jazz coaching staff eventually decide, Ingles might end up getting more ball-handling duties instead of Exum. If the Jazz are looking to allow Exum room to grow however, the choice is obvious.
It's now up to Exum to make the best of the situation, and prove himself in the days ahead.