The first domino has fallen and trading action is officially underway. The Utah Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t give us a blockbuster trade but the move was meaningful for both teams and has the chance to be mutually beneficial.
Jazz Get: Jordan Clarkson
Cavaliers Get: Dante Exum, a 2022 second-round pick (San Antonio) and a 2023 second-round pick (Golden State)
For the Jazz, this means the official end of the Dante Exum experiment five years after drafting him fifth overall in 2014. There was a ton of intrigue about Exum as a prospect out of Australia who came over as just a teenager. A promising rookie season was followed by a torn-ACL one year later. Since then Exum has failed to make a positive impact offensively and has only played 67 games in the last three seasons due to injury.
Utah came into the season with high praise for signing Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic in an attempt to boost their middling offense into the upper tier. The Jazz’s offense has continued to struggle and Conley hasn’t been able to hit consistently. His 36.5% from the field is the lowest of his career and falls far below the expectations that he would bring another dimension to the offense and spell Donovan Mitchell when needed.
Jordan Clarkson arrives in Utah with a strong resume of secondary offensive production that may give the Jazz the extra punch that they need. The Western Conference is a game of inches and the right rotational piece can make all the difference. Clarkson can play both guard positions and has experience as an offensive initiator off of the bench. He is certainly a better player than Exum and gives them another three-point threat.
Cleveland’s extended rebuild continues and the fact that they have two extra picks coming up makes whatever happens with Exum a low-risk exercise. Exum is not a shooter but is solid moving the basketball and generally makes the right play. He is not elite defensively but has the length and measurables to theoretically fit into a solid team defensive concept as an average to slightly above-average defensive piece. Clarkson did not fit into the team’s long term plans as they have plenty of youth on the perimeter to develop. Exum is still young and will keep the ball moving if he can stay healthy enough to contribute. If he flops, they can let him walk at the end of his contract and enjoy the two additional upcoming picks as they attempt to build a contender.
This trade doesn’t move the needle for either team on the top end but makes a lot of sense for what both teams are trying to do right now. We will see how the Jazz offense and Cleveland’s rebuild benefits down the road.