SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Dante Exum has been consistently called the point guard of the future after being drafted No. 5 overall in 2014 by the Utah Jazz. That doesn’t mean he’ll be the starter next season.
Exum started 41 games as a rookie and was supposed to hold onto that role last season but he tore his ACL in the summer and missed the entire year. The Jazz have maintained his rehab has gone wonderfully, but they still traded the No. 12 pick as part of a three-team deal that brought George Hill from the Indiana Pacers. Hill started 73 games for the Pacers last year and, more notably, was the starter in 2012-13 and 2013-14 when Indiana advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.
While the deal cannot be announced officially, Hill’s agent, Bill Neff, confirmed the details.
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey can’t directly speak about the trade, but didn’t commit to Exum as the starter after the draft Thursday night.
“Could we have games coming up in the 16-17 season where someone’s upset that they didn’t start or didn’t have the ball as much or didn’t close?” Lindsey said. “That could happen in a game. But if we do this the right way with the right character, and (coach Quin Snyder) is such a good communicator, we’ll be able to manage the season better. The players are like everybody else, they saw what happened last season and they know we need some reinforcements.”
Jazz players missed a collective 183 games due to injury or illness last season and Lindsey knows he must add depth to the roster. Starters Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors and sixth man Alec Burks all missed significant time. The plan is to be “very active” in free agency and the Jazz had more than $25 million in cap space before adding Hill, according to Spotrac.com.
Lindsey is very familiar with Hill after being the vice president and assistant general manager with the Spurs when they drafted Hill in 2008. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder has one year left on his current deal and is scheduled to make $8 million this season.
“He’ll do whatever’s asked,” Neff said. “I don’t think they traded a lottery pick for a guy with 75 playoff games to do anything put say, ‘Hey, let’s build on your experience.’ And he intends to do that.
“Last year before (Indiana) signed Monta Ellis, Larry Bird said, do you mind playing a bunch of two? Because they wanted to play Monta at one. And George said I’ll do whatever you guys want. If they want him to come off the bench, he’ll come off the bench. If they want him to start, he’ll start.”
The Jazz finished 40-42 last season and look to make a push into the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12. The team was in the market for veteran rotational help, shooting and point guard depth this offseason. Hill checks all those boxes and has a defensive mindset that fits well with Snyder’s approach. He averaged 12.1 points and 3.5 assists last season while shooting 44.1 percent from the floor and 40.8 percent from behind the arc. The 3-point percentage would have been a team-high for Utah.
The Jazz love Exum’s defensive ability and quickness in his long 6-6 frame, but he didn’t bring much offense to the table as a rookie. Hill, an eight-year veteran, is more polished on that end of the floor but isn’t the same physical presence as Exum, who is nine years younger.
“The guards, the wings, the bigs, they’re going to have to compete,” Lindsey said. “And they’re going to have to be great teammates, as well, when Quin starts making decisions on lineups and who has the ball and who closes. We’re very confident in the character of this group. They do care about each other. They’ve done everything we’ve asked. But there will be more competition on the roster this year.”
The Jazz drafted point guards Marcus Paige and Tyrone Wallace on Thursday and now have seven point guards on the roster, including Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto and Trey Burke.