The Mavericks signed Australian-born guard Dante Exum to a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum on the first day of Free Agency. The former fifth-overall pick in 2014 by the Utah Jazz is making his return to the NBA to play alongside Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving after playing overseas for two years.
The 6’6” guard with a 6’9” wingspan’s previous stint in the NBA was hampered by lower-leg injuries. Exum signed with Barcelona in the summer of 2021, and from this moment, he started to make significant improvements to his game. A year later, he signed with Partizan and carried his team to a victory against Red Star Belgrade in the ABA League Championship. He led his team in points during the ‘22-’23 ABA season at 11.2 per game.
He has made significant improvements to his three-point shot during his time playing internationally, shooting 47% from behind the arc last season for Partizan, which is significantly better than his career three-point percentage in the NBA at 31%. In addition to making improvements in his game, he’s stayed healthy during his international stint.
Exum gave Mavericks fans a preview of what he can provide for Dallas during the 2023 FIBA World Cup, averaging 11 points per game, and shooting 47% from behind the arc for the Australian Boomers.
Exum’s athleticism helps him excel as a finisher and a defender. His defense and ability to handle the ball will be vital for the Mavericks, as they need someone to help Josh Green carry the burden of having to defend guards on a nightly basis. After trading Reggie Bullock to the San Antonio Spurs in the three-team deal that landed Grant Williams in Dallas, the Mavericks need players who can comfortably defend guards.
With Exum’s defensive abilities and improved shooting, it would be expected for him to share the floor with Dončić and Irving, as three-guard lineups were a formula for success in the 2021-2022 post-season run for the Mavericks. If Exum can play solid defense and hit open shots, there will surely be a spot for him in the rotation. Even on nights when his shot doesn't fall, the Mavericks have plenty of scoring on the roster to play around him.
The move appears to be one heavily influenced by Dennis Lindsey, former GM of the Utah Jazz, who drafted Exum. It’s a low-risk high-reward move for the Mavericks since Exum’s signing didn’t use the MLE (Mid-Level Exception). The move gives Dallas a chance to improve their defense, which was one of their most glaring issues last season.
The Mavericks haven’t resolved all of their issues this offseason. However, the addition of Exum brings new depth and versatility to the end of the bench, as he is a definite upgrade over guards Frank Ntilikina and McKinley Wright IV. It will be fun to see how his NBA comeback pans out in Dallas and if he can help bring the Mavericks back to the playoffs after a rather embarrassing season last year.