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Rockets 2021-2022 player previews: Dante Exum

The Rockets’ mystery man.

NBA: Houston Rockets-Media Day
At least he’s holding a basketball.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Quick, how old is newly signed Rocket Dante Exum?

He’s 26. You could be forgiven for thinking he was 29, or 30. I did.

It seems like he’s been around forever and not played basketball in forever. Both are somewhat true. Exum was drafted at 19, and has been in the league for seven seasons.

It’s difficult to say he’s played in seven seasons, because he hasn’t. In his seven NBA seasons, Exum has appeared in 210 games, or roughly 30 games a year. Much of this is front loaded to the start of his career with Utah, who drafted him number five overall in 2014-15, when he played 82 games. He missed the next year due to a terrible injury, and then played 66 games in ‘16-’17.

Since then, his peak has been 42 games in an NBA season.

If anyone’s NBA tenure deserved the term “injury-plagued”, it’s Exum.

So what is he now, and what could he be for the Rockets?

It’s difficult to say. When Exum entered the NBA he was billed as a big point guard with elite defensive skills. That ship has likely sailed on the Rockets, as the league has come around to the idea that a shooting guard might be your point just as easily. Perhaps Exum can be the backup point for Houston, though that job might go to the steady hand of D.J. Augustin.

What Exum seemed to be, in the time he played, was a combo guard, with good defense, who was a willing passer, but not necessarily the man to get an offense organized, on track, and working together. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before, up and down the Rockets roster.

Exum did not begin his career as a three-point shooter, with good percentages, but it’s important to remember that the Utah of the time was almost anti-three-point shot, unlike today. Dante did shoot it a 35 percent from three, albeit in low usage, in a 24-game stint for Cleveland.

It’s hard not to feel for Dante Exum, a promising career derailed by injury. It’s hard to be an NBA cipher at your age 26 season, when a player should be at or near his peak.

On the other hand, if there was any team with the opportunity for a player to carve out a lasting role right now, it’s the Rockets. Exum’s deal is incentive laden and team friendly, so it’s more of a one-season (well, two given last year when he did not play) audition.

Stephen Silas and John Lucas seem to have a way of reaching players who have wandered in the fog. Perhaps they’ll find the best of Dante Exum. All it requires is health.

Poll

How many Dante Exum games for Houston?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    70+
    (33 votes)
  • 17%
    60+
    (44 votes)
  • 22%
    50+
    (56 votes)
  • 15%
    40+
    (38 votes)
  • 9%
    Less than 40.
    (24 votes)
  • 4%
    Less than 30.
    (11 votes)
  • 2%
    Less than 20.
    (7 votes)
  • 13%
    Traded to Dallas in an Eric Gordon deal.
    (32 votes)
245 votes total Vote Now