SALT LAKE CITY — It was a tough night to be a Utah Jazz fan Friday night, but there were few positives to take away from the 100-86 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Dante Exum was one of those positives.
Now Exum finished with the worst plus/minus on the Jazz with a minus-19 after playing a season-high 29 minutes. Yes, that isn't very good. And he only went 3 of 9 from the field, finishing with seven points and a career-high seven rebounds. That stat line won't blow anyone away. It actually might disappoint. But it's the principle of that increase in minutes that should excite Jazz fans. In the first matchup with the Spurs, Exum played 14 minutes and scored just four points.
"I feel good. I feel like I've put a lot of work into where I am now," said Exum. "It's just about continuing to get better, playing those 28-plus minutes where I'm playing those late minutes trying to get the win."
Utah head coach Quin Snyder is showing more and more trust in his young point guard but says Exum still has a lot he needs to work on.
"He's a guy that's trying to get better, that's making some good plays, making some mistakes, hitting some shots, missing some shots but is always competing and that's the main thing," said Snyder.
Maybe the most telling reason Exum deserves more playing time is the poor play of point guard Shelvin Mack. He played 21 minutes, scored seven points on 2-of-8 shooting and turned the ball over twice. Mack also is at a matchup disadvantage when opposing teams switch bigger wings on him via the pick-and-roll, whereas Exum can body up on bigger guards.
Exum has played the role of an off-the-ball guard more than the role of the traditional point guard with most of that position played by Mack and George Hill. But Exum believes he will see more time at the point guard position as the season goes on and guys like Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks are back healthy.
"I've always been a point guard, so when those guys come back it opens up me coming back to the point," said Exum.
The Jazz are only six games into the season and it's unfair to make any rash decisions, but consistently increasing Exum's minutes is a change that needs to take place sooner than later.
Nathan Harker is a sports writing intern currently enrolled at Brigham Young University majoring in broadcast journalism. Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @n8_harker.