Cleveland Cavaliers: Dante Exum could be a good long-term piece

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dante Exum handles the ball. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dante Exum handles the ball. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Dante Exum has been a solid rotational piece for the Cleveland Cavaliers when he’s been available.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for guard Dante Exum in December of last year, most people didn’t think much of it. The Cavs traded away Jordan Clarkson to the Utah Jazz in return for Exum and then, two second-round picks. Clarkson was a big fan favorite in Cleveland, and he was a volume scorer off the bench his whole stint with the Cavs.

But, Clarkson didn’t fit the mold for what Cleveland needed, and he was an expiring player then. The Cavs’ starting backcourt also consists of two very capable scorers in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton.

Clarkson plays a similar game as the two; he has great scoring capabilities, but defense and ball distribution aren’t strengths of his. Although, we have seen improvements in the playmaking skills of the two guards so far, as KJG’s John Carter hit on.

Dante Exum brings a much different skill set off the bench. The point guard is a lengthy defender and plays his role well. He passes the ball willingly and defends better than any other guard on Cleveland.

He is a great complement off the bench and has helped the Cavs immensely in their early success on the season when he’s been available. Albeit Exum missed Cleveland’s first game due to left hip soreness, which held him out of the Cavs’ final two preseason games, too.

He’s had troubles staying healthy throughout his career, unfortunately, dating back with the Jazz, and knee and shoulder issues come to mind, for one, in regards to that injury history. When Exum has been healthy, though, he’s been a productive reserve, including for Cleveland.

In my opinion, Dante Exum is the perfect backup point guard. Many championship contenders would seemingly love to have him off of their bench. He has quickly become one of my favorite players on the team because of the role he plays.

I wasn’t a big fan of the deal last year, because of how much I enjoyed Jordan Clarkson in Cleveland. But, I will say, both teams benefited immensely from the trade (Clarkson was eventually re-signed) and this proved to be a nice move by Cavs general manager Koby Altman.

Exum is on the final year of his $33 million contract where the Cavs owe him $9.6 million for this season, if he meets his $500,000 incentives. I see Exum getting a smaller contract this next offseason, potentially in the $4-6 (on the higher end) million per year range perhaps?

But I think Cleveland should do what they can to get him back for next season/coming years, and not look to potentially trade him. I believe that if the Cavs are able to make a run at the playoffs any time soon, Exum will be essential to help win games.

Exum could be a good long-term rotational piece for the Cavs, and would continue to aid Garland and Sexton.

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Dante Exum has had plenty of experience already. He’s still young at 25 years old, though, so he may have some improvement down the line.

But, the veteran experience he’s gained throughout his tenure in the league may prove to be meaningful for Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. We’ve seen early improvements from the two as defenders, which may have stemed some from Exum.

So far, Exum has played well in the preseason and the three games he’s played in the regular season. In the preseason, Exum had 30 total points, 10 assists, four rebounds and two steals in 50 minutes played.

He shot 10-of-19 from the field and three-of-seven from three-point range then. And in the three regular season games he’s played, he’s had 10 points and 12 assists, which while it isn’t jumping off the stat sheet, does show he’s a capable rotational playmaker.

Those have been solid numbers from the crafty veteran in a reserve role, when factoring in his five steals, too, in the regular season games, and look for him to obviously improve on them with the minutes he is provided.

Exum provides the perfect complement to the two guards, feasibly in staggering them, mostly. He is efficient at what they are not as good at and vice versa. The guards have shown early signs that they are all learning from each other, though.

And looking onward, we’ll continue to see how the three do together, mostly with Exum in for one of the two and/or with him with Kevin Porter Jr., when he’s back in the fold with Exum, throughout the rest of the season.

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Moreover, it would be hard for me to see the Cavs passing up on re-signing Exum this next offseason for coming years, provided they were able to re-sign him via fairly team-friendly deal.