CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cavaliers guard Dante Exum showed Thursday night why he has a good chance to rebuild his career in Cleveland.
Cleveland lost 109-106 to Charlotte, but Exum helped lead a second unit that was particularly effective at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters.
Exum finished with seven points, five rebounds and two assists in 12 minutes. It was his fourth game in a Cavs uniform and first in Cleveland since being traded from Utah for Jordan Clarkson in December. Exum is listed at 6-foot-5, and brings length to the backcourt and playmaking to the second unit.
One of the Cavs’ most productive lineups Thursday featured Exum, Kevin Porter Jr., Darius Garland, Larry Nance Jr. and John Henson. Per NBA.com stats, the grouping has averaged 7.3 minutes a game in two games together. During those two games, the lineup has averaged 13.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
“We have a lot of guys that can guard the perimeter on that one,” Beilein said of the lineup. “They’ve been really good defensively. Dante has given us a really good lift there. Jordan Clarkson is actually a very good defender, too, but there’s been no drop off in that area. I hope you see what I see in Dante. I see a versatile player that’s really going to help us down the road.”
Beilein added that the lineup provides good ball movement which helped the take an 11-point lead to begin the second quarter. That same lineup also helped maintain the Cavs’ lead to start the fourth.
“He has a big body,” Cedi Osman said of Exum. “When he drives to the basket, he can see. If he has a wide open layup, he’s gonna make it. If not, he’s gonna pass it, so it’s really important to have somebody like Dante on our team.”
Exum’s ability to set his teammates up is one of his best attributes, and his playmaking fits well alongside Porter and Garland, two of the Cavs’ best playmakers.
A guard from Australia, Exum has had a rough start to his NBA career. The first four seasons of his career were hampered by injuries. He didn’t play the 2015-16 season because of a torn left ACL. During the 2017-18 season, Exum played in the last 14 games after recovering from a shoulder injury. Last season, Exum suffered a patellar tendon tear and played in 42 games.
In four games with the Cavs, Exum has played 14.6 minutes a game. While he’s not been a good shooter for much of his career, he’s shooting 33.3% from the 3-point line so far with Cleveland on 1.5 attempts a game. Exum’s first points Thursday night came from a 3-pointer. He’s also shooting 47.4% from the field on 4.8 attempts.
Not known as a scorer, Exum is averaging 7.3 points per game. His best average was during the 2017-18 season, when he played 14 games and averaged 8.1 points.
“He’s really good,” Garland said. “It’s another big guard. He’s not too much of a scorer, but when he does score, it’s pretty effective, and that’s when he gets other people going.”