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  • Writer's pictureBen Ballard

Dante Exum's Career: A Story of NBA Revival

Dante Exum is writing a new and impressive chapter in the story of NBA career. His NBA career, can be characterized by resilience and determination. His career began with high expectations when the Utah Jazz selected him fifth overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. Exum was a highly touted rookie due to:

  • His Physical Attributes: At 6'6", Exum has exceptional height and length for a point guard.

  • His Athleticism: Excellent speed and agility that were projected to translate well in the NBA.

  • International Performance: Exum's performances at international levels, particularly at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship, were impressive showing his potential against high level competition.

  • Versatility: Scouts saw a player with versatility, capable of playing both guard positions effectively.

His rookie season hinted at his potential, with Exum playing in all 82 games, a rare feat for a rookie, and displaying promising skills as a point guard. However, his journey was soon marred by injuries, including a significant ACL tear in 2015 that sidelined him for the entire 2015-16 season.

The graphic below shows his Points, Assists, and Rebounds per game over the course of his career. This shows how much of a roller coaster his career has been, as that's what the graphics literally look like. Starting as a rookie in 2014, losing the 2015 season to his ACL tear.

Dante Exum Career Per Game Stats, Dante Exum Career
Dante Exum Career Per Game Stats

Upon his return from injury in 2015-16, Exum struggled to find consistent form and playing time with the Jazz, partly due to further injuries. His stint at Utah, though filled with challenges, showcased flashes of his talent, particularly in his playmaking and defensive abilities. In December 2019, Exum's journey took a turn when he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. While his time in Cleveland was brief, it was marked by modest improvements in his performance.

The 2020-21 season saw Exum face more struggles with limited game time and impact with Cleveland. However, the 2023-24 season with the Dallas Mavericks marked a significant turning point. Joining a Mavericks team led by star Luka Dončić, Exum experienced a career resurgence. His shooting percentages, particularly from beyond the arc, improved dramatically, indicating a newfound confidence and role in the Mavericks' system. His ability to adapt to a new team environment and contribute effectively was a testament to his growth and perseverance.

Revival In Dallas

I like to show the total attempts per shot type as well for each season. As this tells a lot of the story that after his rookie year in 2014 and his return in 2016, his playing time and attempts begun to drop sharply until he fell out of the league in 2020. 3 years later in 2023 with the Mavericks he's having his most 4th most Field Goal Attempts in his career.

Dante Exum Career Shooting Attempts
Dante Exum Shooting Attempts

He's having the best shooting year of his career overall. This year his FG percentage so far is an impressive 57% versus his career figures which were usually around ~45%. His Three Point Shooting is also incredible this year. At 45%, that's significantly higher than it has been most of his career around 30%. He's been flourishing in a role where he can be the secondary ball handler behind Luka, who is creating great shots for him.

Dante Exum Career Shooting Percentages
Dante Exum Career Shooting Percentages, FG, 3FG, FT

The below is a histogram that shows his game level data for Field Goals, Three-Pointers, and Free Throws. You can see that for all three his 2023 average is well positioned versus his career shooting.

Dante Exum Career Shooting Percentages, Histogram
Dante Exum Career Shooting Percentages, Histogram

The graphic below shows that not only his his three point shooting much more accurate, for most of the season, he was on pace to have the most threes of any season. In the last few games it has fallen to his second highest pace for threes. But still incredibly impressive pace for him.

Dante Exum Career Field Goals per Game
Dante Exum Cumulative Threes Per Season

Exum's career arc reflects the unpredictable nature of professional sports, where talent and potential often meet the realities of physical setbacks and the need for adaptation. His journey from a high draft pick to a role player battling injuries, and finally to a significant contributor on a competitive team, underscores the importance of resilience and continuous improvement in the face of adversity. Exum's story in the NBA is not just about basketball skills but also about the mental and physical fortitude required to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.

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