Dante Exum Set To Make NBA History


Mar 16, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard

Dante Exum

(11) shoots the ball against the Charlotte Hornets during the third quarter at EnergySolutions Arena. Utah Jazz won the game 94-66. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been more than 70 minutes since he scored a point on in an NBA game. It’s been about 100 minutes since he took a shot even remotely near to the restricted area. And it’s been over 218 minutes since he last made a trip to the free throw line, to bring his total number of trips to the freebie stripe in the last 39 games to two. Yes, two. In nearly half an NBA season. Dante Exum is about to make NBA history, but it’s not the sort you want from your starting point guard.

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Never has a guard in the history of the NBA playing 1,700 minutes in a season — Exum is currently on pace to play 1,733 minutes — made fewer trips to the free throw line than Dante Exum will in 2014-15. And it’s not even close.

Exum would have to take 12 more free throws to even catch Steve Blake (2013-14, 1498 minutes, 43 FTAs) at their current minutes, a shade under 1,500, not likely when he’s taken only four in the last 932 minutes of play and continues to show an almost irrational fear of the painted area of a basketball court.

Before this season, the least free throw attempts by any point guard in a season, minimum 1,700 minutes played, starter or no, was 63, by Jose Calderon in 2013-14. Next is Rajon Rondo, this season, currently at 67 FTAs for the season, but he missed many games to begin 2014-15, returning from injury.

Dante Exum’s shot chart from March 4 to March 21, 2015, a span of 10 games

Dante Exum is set to blow away Calderon’s dubious record by half or less. Certainly, he’ll set the new mark for futility at the line when it comes to attempts by quite a lot.

Calderon makes up for it by being a solid shooter and dishing loads of dimes. Rondo, while a poor shooter, still gets into the paint and also acquires assists at a league-high rate by drawing defenses then passing off, despite his inability to make any shot outside seemingly seven feet.

Exum does neither of these things, his assist percentage actually dropping from 17.0% to a lowly 16.4% on the season over the last 10 games. This allows defenses to sag off of the Aussie rookie to the point that it leaves the Utah Jazz playing 4-on-5 on offense.

Whatever gains the Jazz make on defense from the 6’6″ 190 pound starting point are quickly negated by the major liability he creates on the offensive end, effectively turning Dante Exum into a shooting guard that can’t shoot.

While most mutter and point a finger in the general direction of Rudy Gobert for the struggles of the Jazz offense, Dante Exum is every bit as much, if not more so to blame for the stagnant Utah offense that is often forced to take a difficult shot late in a clock.

Even at a tender 20 years old and 195 pounds, speedy 6’6″ teammate Alec Burks managed to make 143 trips to the free throw line as a rookie in a meager 939 minutes played.

Dante Exum is shooting 35% from the field overall and 32% from three on the season while averaging 2.3 assists in 21.3 minutes played. Few are willing to consider it, but if this worrisome, historically poor trend by Exum continues it could be very costly to the Utah Jazz later if the habit is allowed to persist.

The odd aversion to the paint on offense is made even more puzzling by the fact that Dante Exum is more than willing to mix it up with NBA big men on defense.