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Welcome to Utah, Danté Exum and Rodney Hood

By Matt Payne – UtahJazz.com

So many rumors. So many predictions. So much buildup to the NBA Draft.

And now, suddenly, it’s over.

But as far as the Utah Jazz are concerned, the results were certainly exciting.

The Jazz made a splash by drafting Australian combo guard Danté Exum, who surprisingly dropped to pick No. 5 after being considered a near lock to go in the top four. The thousands of fans who packed into EnergySolutions Arena for the draft party erupted in excitement for a young man with a lightning-quick first step and the stature (6-foot-6, 196 pounds) to thrive in the NBA.

“I’m just a kid from Melbourne, Australia, looking to come into a program and work hard,” Exum told Jazz radio voice David Locke shortly after being drafted. “I’m here for a reason. I’m ready to get a job done, and I’m here to win. I look forward to getting to know the team and getting a feel for what the other players are thinking and how they fit into the system.”

For every bit of excitement that surrounds Exum, though, there’s an equal measure of mystery. He played in Australia against less-than-stellar competition, and scouts weren’t able to see nearly as much of him as they were other players. And at 18 years old, he’s about as raw as a prospect can be.

Still, Exum’s potential was too much for the Jazz to pass up.

“Danté’s young and he’s got great abilities, and he’s going to need to have some continued development,” Jazz president Randy Rigby said. “But he’s got a great personality. He’s a young man who thrives on being a leader and taking on additional responsibilities. I think our fans are going to really like how this young man is going to develop.”

Exum’s draft stock began to soar after an impressive Nike Hoop Summit performance in April, which followed a big performance at last summer’s FIBA U-19 championships, where he averaged 18 points and nearly four assists per game. He scored 33 points against Spain in the quarterfinals and 28 points against Lithuania in the bronze-medal game.

One thing the Jazz are particularly excited about is Exum’s versatility. Rigby described Exum as a “multi-faceted player” who can play the point and both wing positions, and who will be able to share the court with Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks in a variety of different combinations.

With the 23rd pick, the Jazz took Duke small forward Rodney Hood, who averaged 16.1 points per game as the Blue Devils’ team captain last season. He also buried two 3-pointers per game and shot 42 percent from beyond the arc.

Like Exum, Hood was an unexpected surprise for the Jazz, as he was expected to go much higher in the draft. In his mock drafts, ESPN’s Chad Ford consistently projected Hood to be a late-lottery pick, and according to David Locke, the Jazz had Hood rated much higher than where they were able to draft him.

“I’m a guy who can score the ball and shoot the ball,” Hood said when Locke asked him about his personal strengths. “I come to work every day—I’m a competitor. I’m a guy who just wants to win and prove myself.”

To cap off the night, the Jazz selected Tennessee power forward Jarnell Stokes with the 35th pick—and then promptly traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies for a future pick.