Utah Jazz looking for new backup point guard after Dante Exum injury

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz had their fair share of injuries last season but already, before the 2017-18 season has tipped off, Dante Exum could be out for the year.

If there’s one thing the Utah Jazz need this season to overcome the loss of a certain All-Star small forward, it’s luck with injuries.

No team lost more wins to injury than the Jazz last season. They still managed 51 wins but could have cracked 60 had George Hill, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors spent more time on the court.

With no out-and-out superstar scorer, Quin Snyder has opted for an all-around approach to the offense. Cohesion, timing, the extra pass — little things that come with guys consistently playing together are more important to the Jazz than most teams this season.

To achieve that, a steady rotation is paramount.

The news Dante Exum could have played his last game of the 2017-18 season before it’s begun has thrown a spanner in the works.

Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune first reported the possibility of the injury being season-ending:

"” Point guard Dante Exum will miss significant time and could miss the entire season after suffering a separated left shoulder to go along with ligament damage Friday night.”"

Favors – who put in a big offseason of his own – was devastated at the sight of Exum running back to the locker room clutching his shoulder, telling the Salt Lake Tribune:

"“I feel really bad for him. Dante is a guy who worked really hard in the offseason. He improved his game. He came into camp in good shape, and he looked really good. It’s just unfortunate.”"

Already, the Jazz are reshuffling the rotation and, in turn, making adjustments to the offense.

So what now? How do they replace a guy who was set to be the primary backup point guard and leader of the second unit?

Raul Neto can expect extra minutes if Exum is out for an extended period. A capable ball-handler and distributor, the 25-year-old has proven throughout his two-year NBA career he can compete in the league. He’s a hard worker and will follow what Snyder says to the letter, but the Brazilian makes the Jazz somewhat one-dimensional as Ricky Rubio‘s backup.

Similar in play style to Rubio, Neto is a more competent scorer than the Spaniard but doesn’t come close to what offering the same length and athleticism of Exum.

Rookie, Donovan Mitchell has the physical tools to replicate Exum’s impact as a scorer, but might struggle with the more defined roles of a point guard.

Mitchell is a shooting guard who we would expect to see move up a position rather than down.  He’s a scorer that can distribute, but as is the case with most 2-guards, scoring comes first.

Related Story: Utah Jazz: 2017-18 NBA season preview

Defensively Mitchell would hold his own, but on a team that is pegged to struggle to score, they need somebody to take control of the second unit. A rookie shooting guard acting as the primary ball-handler could be a disaster and monumental confidence-killer for the 21-year-old.

If Exum is out for the year, the impact it has on the team will never be known. Have the Jazz lost a 6.2 points per game backup point guard or a contender for the Most Improved Player award?

We’ve been waiting to see the Aussie live up to his pre-draft hype and just as he started to show glimpses of achieving that, another injury set him back for quite possibly another full season. It could be the second season-ending injury for Exum in his four-year career. In the middle of contract negotiation coming off his rookie deal, this one couldn’t have come at a worse time.

In a desperate attempt to find positives, he’s been here and done it before. As much as knowing he’s capable of overcoming the injury may be helpful, the daunting task of doing it all again could be debilitating.

Next: 10 bold predictions for 2017-18 NBA season

The Jazz are requesting second and third opinions and are in search of any outcome that doesn’t make this season-ending.