Three players the Utah Jazz most need to have a breakout season in 2019-20

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 7: Donovan Mitchell, Royce O'Neale, and Dante Exum of the Utah Jazz speak during game between Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 7, 2018 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 7: Donovan Mitchell, Royce O'Neale, and Dante Exum of the Utah Jazz speak during game between Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 7, 2018 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 1: Dante Exum #11 of the Utah Jazz dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on January 1, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 1: Dante Exum #11 of the Utah Jazz dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on January 1, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Dante Exum

Ah, yes. Dante Exum. The perennial Ex-Factor (see what I did there?) that unfortunately has never been able to remain healthy. It may sound like the continued beating of a dead horse or the repetitive jumble of a broken record, but it remains the truth nonetheless. If Exum can finally remain healthy, reach some semblance of his potential and make an impact for the Jazz, he could very well be a game-changer.

Here’s the thing about Exum – he’s shown flashes ever since his rookie season where he’s been absolutely sensational. Perhaps the two crowning moments of that were, first, his play in the 2018 NBA Playoffs as the primary defender against James Harden wherein he did an exceptional job. The second was in a brief dozen-or-so-game stint this past season from late December to early January in which Dante was prolific.

That stretch, of course, came to an abrupt halt when Exum suffered an ankle injury in a game against the Detroit Pistons on January 5th, which would hold him out until March 11th. From there he played just three games before suffering yet another injury – to his knee this time – that held him out for the remainder of the season.

But my point is – all Exum truly has to do to have a breakout season is simply suit up for an entire year! Sure, that may be a tall order given his spotty history, but at the same time, it’s entirely doable.

Exum has shown enough value during his highest points, that even if he doesn’t improve one iota from that, but just remains healthy, it will be a massive success for both him and the Jazz. The value he’ll bring as a defender and as an athletic driver that can collapse defenses as he attacks the paint will be enormous.

That said, if Exum is able to remain healthy AND have more of a true breakout where he improves upon his highest points as an NBA player, then we could be talking about something revolutionary. Even in Dante’s best performances, he’s struggled with taking care of the ball, making the right decisions on both ends of the floor, and of course he’s never been much of a shooter. Last year he went just 41.9 percent from the field and an appalling 29 percent from the perimeter.

But if he, one, stays healthy, two, remedies those issues to improve his reliability and usability then, three, remains the masterful defender he’s shown himself capable of being, the Jazz are going to have a role player extraordinaire on their hands. A breakout from Exum would make the Jazz even deeper than they’re projected to be. And considering the high ceiling Dante already has, it could result in the Jazz having yet another elite two-way force in their ranks. That would be such an incredible luxury.

I’ve said for a while that it will be crucial for Exum to add some semblance of a jump shot so that he’s respected from mid and three-point range to open up his driving opportunities, and that will likely be one of the main aspects he needs to improve as part of his potential breakout. But even that takes a backseat to health.

More than anything, the Jazz need Exum able to suit up and on the court. If he does just that and nothing else, the dividends will be massive.