Dante Exum, 6-foot-6 point guard, Australia
2013-14 stats: 18.2 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.6 RPG
The consensus top international prospect in this year’s draft, Exum is a player that even the most dedicated NBA evaluators can only claim to have seen in actual competition on a handful of occasions. A scorer and playmaker with size and explosiveness, the son of Michael Jordan’s former college teammate is also regarded by many observers as the best guard in the draft. There will be an adjustment process to the next level, however, and Exum’s shooting and strength must improve for him to make the desired impact in the league.
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Career highlights: Exum played in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit all-star game in Portland, alongside the likes of fellow top prospect Andrew Wiggins and against domestic players like Jabari Parker, scoring 16 points in a win over the American team. But his true breakout performance came last summer in Prague, when he participated in the FIBA under-19 World Championships. Competing for Australia, Exum averaged 18.2 points, 3.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game against top age-group competition from across the world, including several potential first-round picks playing for USA Basketball, such as Aaron Gordon and point guards Marcus Smart and Elfrid Payton.
Strengths: The ability to create for himself and others, as well as finishing at the rim, are perhaps he biggest assets of Exum’s game, as he possesses excellent size for his position and great quickness off the dribble. He excels in transition, is a creative player who finds seams in opposing defenses and has good court vision. While he needs to continue to improve as a shooter, Exum simply has a knack for scoring and can make pull-up jumpers in rhythm, find a way to get to the line and with his length, has the potential to be a solid defender at either backcourt position and contribute on the glass.
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Weaknesses: As much as Exum professes his desire to play point guard and has functioned at the position throughout his career, there are concerns that his scoring nature makes him better suited to play shooting guard, though he does possess the size and speed of many of the top floor generals in the game today. His shooting is problematic at this stage of his career, as his strength might make it tough for him to finish at the rim consistently. After playing against mediocre Australian prep competition and only focusing on draft preparation for the past several months, Exum’s adjustment to basketball’s highest level will be even steeper than for most rookies.
Draft projection: Due to Kansas center Joel Embiid’s foot injury, Exum could go anywhere from Milwaukee with the No. 2 pick to the fifth selection in the draft, Utah. In a guard-oriented league, his upside is too much to ignore and it’s likely that wherever he goes, he’ll have the ball in his hands from the outset of his career. If Exum develops in the fashion many believe he can, he’ll evolve into a multi-faceted floor general, with the ability to score off the dribble, make his teammates better, keep defenders honest from outside and make life difficult for opposing ballhandlers with his length.