The NBA scouts and executives attending the Draft Combine in Chicago are attempting to unravel the conundrum of draft hopeful Dante Exum. The multi-dimensional 6’6″ point guard out of Australia offers athleticism mixed with the risk of being a relative unknown in US basketball circles. Known for acrobatic YouTube videos, the 18-year-old has not played against the same competition as the other draft hopefuls. Penciled in at a draft slot between fifth and eighth, any team GM pulling the trigger on his selection must have the ability to tune out a fan base potentially screaming about a top pick of a relative unknown.
The worst case scenario when drafting a foreign player is someone such as Fran Vazquez, selected by the Orlando Magic at No. 11 in the 2005 NBA Draft. The Spaniard was never really interested in relocating to the US to play at the highest level. The team never did adequate due diligence on the draftee and was left with nothing for its pick. The risks with Exum are not as extreme. He is the son of Cecil Exum, a bench player on the UNC national championship team in 1982. He recently moved to Los Angeles to prepare for the draft. The best case scenario for Exum is to become a tall, elite level point guard, something like Shawn Livingston before completely blowing out his knee and having to develop a more ground bound game.
Teams have been concerned that Exum has only a short list of teams on his draft wish list, particularly the Los Angeles Lakers. Based on interviews at the Draft Combine, the young draftee confirmed he did not have a preconceived list of teams. Nevertheless, Exum did say he wanted to go to a “good team” in which he would be the right fit. He says he is willing to work hard on his game and undergo all the preparation necessary to get on the court. Several teams plan to speak with Exum to try to understand more about him. Unlike other top draft hopefuls such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, who decided against attending the NBA Draft Combine, Dante Exum attended because he is a conundrum to many teams and they need to see more of him before putting him at the top of their draft boards.
NBA success depends on more than physical skills. To become an elite pro player, the young draftee must have a hunger to win and excel. Additionally, as a point guard, the ability to see the court is paramount. While highlight reel videos show physical talent, they do not show the player’s ability to see how to manage difficult on court situations to the team’s advantage. Only NBA level scrimmaging gives executives a glimpse of how the player may fit their team.
Busy NBA executives are hopeful of solving the conundrum of the athletic Australian Dante Exum prior to the NBA Draft. One of them will likely pull the trigger on a top five or top 10 pick to select the Aussie and will need to have the ammunition to explain to team fans why the pick was the best one for the club. Exum is intriguing and will be some team’s designated point guard of the future after the draft. He hopes to quickly grow into the role.
Commentary By William Costolo