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NBA PM: Why Exum Is a Top Draft Prospect

An explanation why Dante Exum is so highly coveted despite having such a limited body of work… Some background on Mark Tatum, the NBA’s new Deputy Commissioner.

Yannis Koutroupis

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Australia’s Dante Exum, the premier international draft prospect, signed with agent Rob Pelinka today, confirming that he will declare for the 2014 NBA Draft. Exum was eligible to play in the NCAA this semester due to graduating at the end of 2013 and he originally left the possibility of attending a college for the 2014-15 school year open. However, with his stock already close to peaking, he’s going to bypass college and go straight to the NBA.

How has Exum vaulted to the top of the draft boards, in contention with the likes of Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker? Those players are on national TV regularly, but as Steve Kyler noted in the NBA AM this morning, sometimes it pays to be out of the spotlight. It certainly has in Exum’s case.

He’s months removed from the last chance NBA teams were genuinely able to scout him against quality competition, the FIBA U19 tournament this past summer. Outside of that, in the last year he also participated in the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit and adidas Nations 2012.

That body of work isn’t anywhere near as extensive as the other top prospects, but it’s quite impressive. Exum averaged 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the U19 tournament despite dealing with an ankle injury throughout. He closed out the tournament with 33 points against Spain, 21 against Serbia and 28 against Lithuania.

While matched up against Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Kasey Hill at the Nike Hoops Summit, he scored 16 points on 6-8 shooting from the field, dished out two assists and had two steals in 22 minutes. In the week prior to the game, Exum also got to go up against Sergey Karasev, Andrew Wiggins and Dennis Schroeder in practice, an experience that he put as much importance on as the actual game.

In six games at the 2012 adidas Nations, when he was just 17 years old, Exum put up averages of 15 points, four rebounds and nearly four assists a game. The camp consisted of the best prospects from across the globe, including the best from the United States.

As the numbers indicate, scoring is a strength of Exum’s. The NBA game will provide him his best opportunity to really showcase his point guard skills, though. Not only is there better spacing and no hand checking, Exum will be surrounded by far and away the best supporting cast that he’s ever played with. When he’s surrounded by quality options, he could look much more like the true point guard some criticize him for not being right now.

Exum will only be 19 years old by the time the draft comes around and teams will be riding heavily on that impressive, albeit limited, body of work. With how regulated and inactive the pre-draft process has become, especially for top-ranked prospects, it’s highly unlikely that he participates in anything that resembles five-on-five basketball. He’ll primarily do interviews, drills and maybe some head-to-head stuff – depending on the competition and their willingness to participate.

It’s easy to see why they would assume based on how Exum has performed in the previous events that if Exum was playing in the NCAA he would stand out in a similar fashion. As far as point guard prospects go, Exum is on par with some of the best to come across in recent years, including Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke and even Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard.

As far as comparisons go, Exum will hear Carter-Williams’ name a lot and Shaun Livingston, who was a top five pick out of high school believed to have superstar potential before suffering a devastating knee injury early in his career. He’s a large point guard at 6’6 with a 6’9 wingspan and the speed to get by, and more importantly, keep up with the smaller, quicker point guards of the NBA. He’s a work in progress defensively, but his potential there is immense.

His jump shot is the second most unrefined part of his game. The farther away from the basket he is, the less comfortable he becomes. However, keeping him out there is no easy task and he has been improving as a shooter. He’s a good athlete, but has really worked hard on developing a reliable floater, which should serve him very well in the NBA.

With the reputation of a hard worker and still quite young, Exum is a safe bet to eventually become a reliable shooter. Combine that with some additional strength that his big frame can clearly support and we could be talking about another elite point guard in what is already being regarded as the golden era for them.

When projecting where Exum could land in the draft, there’s really no need to look outside of the top 10. Even if all of the other top prospects declare, there’s really no feasible way Exum drops below eight, but we’re going to look at the top 10 in the case of one getting lucky in the lottery or Exum slipping a bit.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers would be the teams most likely to consider selecting him.

Basketball Insiders’ next full 2014 NBA mock draft will be released Friday January 31.

Who is Mark Tatum?: NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver is set to officially take over for David Stern next month. He’s been groomed for this position for years, but almost more important than being prepared is having the right person take his old spot.

Today, Yahoo! Sports reported that Silver has picked Mark Tatum, formerly the Executive Vice President of Global Marketing Partnerships, to be the next Deputy Commissioner. Tatum’s work has largely been behind the scenes, so this may be the first time you’ve heard his name, but his background and qualifications make it clear that he is qualified and deserving of the position:

  • A 1991 Cornell graduate in business and management and marketing.
  • A 1998 graduate of Harvard Business School, where he was the President of the Harvard Business School Student Association.
  • A three-time winner (2006, 2007, 2008) of the SportsBusiness Journal’s Forty Under 40 award.
  • An employee of the NBA since 1999, where he has also served as Senior Vice President, Vice President of Business Development, Senior Director and Group Manager of Marketing Properties and Director of Marketing Partnerships.

 

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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NBA Daily: Lessons From The 2018 NBA Draft

After a wild 2018 NBA Draft, here are four lessons and storylines worth watching over the next few years.

Ben Nadeau

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Now that the dust has settled on an unpredictable NBA Draft — what exactly have we learned? In amongst the unrelenting rumors, refused workouts and surprise reaches, there are a few key takeaways from Brooklyn. Of course, some of these are one-off instances, but others are definitely part of modern-day draft patterns. While draft night may sometimes seem like complete chaos or chance, each scenario on this rundown has been boiling over for weeks. Between passing on a talented prospect to letting an injured one slide, here are four important lessons from the 2018 NBA Draft.

Luka Dončić… Not The No. 1?

For months and months, it appeared as if Luka Dončić was poised to become the No. 1 overall pick in this draft. Even today, it’s hard to believe that somebody with Dončić’s age and resume wasn’t the top selection. In 2017-18 alone, the Slovenian took home EuroLeague MVP and Finals MVP plus ACB MVP, with championships in both leagues to boot — but here we are. Dončić averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals over just 25 minutes per game, quickly transforming into the most well-rounded overseas prospect of all-time. But as impressive as Dončić was throughout the spring, the potential ceilings of both DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III eventually won out.

At 7-foot-1, Ayton’s 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game were undeniably worthy of a top selection too, pairing well alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson for the foreseeable future. While the jury is still out on Bagley III — his defense needs some major fine-tuning — he won’t take key touches away from De’Aaron Fox either. More or less, nobody wants to be the organization to miss on such a franchise-altering pick. The Suns, Kings and even the Hawks may eventually regret passing on Dončić, but when general managers’ entire careers can depend on making the right choice at the right time, it’s not difficult to understand why the top of the draft unfolded as it did.

Playing Hard To Get Doesn’t Always Work Out…

As draft boards began to take shape, there was one particularly interesting situation sitting at No. 4 overall. Jaren Jackson Jr., solidly leading the second tier of prospects, was looking like a lock at the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick — but with one major caveat: Jackson Jr. reportedly didn’t work out or give his medical information to the franchise. After he was drafted, Jackson Jr. called those rumors “a tad out of context” — but, obviously, those are some massive red flags. Either way, Memphis went with their gut and selected the talented forward anyway.

But beyond all that, Memphis absolutely made the right move by sticking to their guns. Putting a modern three-point shooting, defensive-minded athlete next to Marc Gasol should prove to be an absolute nightmare for years to come. Naturally, Jackson Jr. will get plenty of easy looks from the stellar Mike Conley Jr. too — so if the draftee was once apprehensive, surely that will pass soon. Still, it reflects on a larger NBA pattern, wherein which prospective athletes sensibly look to mold their own path out of college. With players trying to control their draft narratives more than ever, it’s reassuring to see that some franchises will take their target first and then figure out the rest.

We may never know Jackson Jr.’s full thought process behind not working out for the Grizzlies, but there’s a great chance that the former Spartan was made for Memphis’ tough brand of basketball — and we should all be glad we’ll get to see it.

…But Injuries Will Lead To A Slide

Michael Porter Jr. — what a year for him, huh?

After missing out on much of his only collegiate season due to back surgery, Porter Jr. promised that he was feeling better than ever. But over the last month, scouts and front offices were treated to canceled workouts and hazy uncertainty. And, at the end of the day, it probably scared a handful of franchises away from the talented scorer. Just this week, the Kings heavily considered Porter Jr. at No. 2 overall — but even with that sudden unlikelihood passing by, few thought he’d drop out of the top ten altogether. Outside of the guaranteed money that Porter Jr. will miss out on, redshirting his rookie year may also be on the table as well.

The inherent upside with Porter Jr. is obvious, but — similarly to the Dončić issue — it’s tough to ask franchise officials to stake their livelihood on the prospect’s health. If Porter Jr.’s lingering issues stay with him and he never reaches his mountain of potential, that’s a tough pill to swallow. The 19-year-old would fall all the way down to No. 14, where the Denver Nuggets gladly scooped him up. During the combine in May, Porter Jr. called himself the best player in the draft — but it’s now up to him to prove them all wrong.

The Mysterious Men Nearly Miss Out

Let’s rewind to early April. Villanova had been just crowned NCAA champions for the second time in three years, the NBA playoffs were soundly on the horizon and mock drafts had begun to consistently pour out. Early on, there were two athletic big men that looked like shoo-ins as first-rounders: Robert Williams and Mitchell Robinson. Despite their undercooked skill-sets, both players pulled out of the combine and then waited for the hype to build — except, well, it didn’t. Williams, who was typically projected in the early teens, slipped out of the lottery entirely, only to be rescued by the Boston Celtics at No. 27. Williams is a booming, powerful prospect, but he could’ve really benefited from competing against the other top prospects in May.

Although he’s now landed in an ideal situation with Brad Stevens, Al Horford and a process-driven Celtics squad, Williams likely cost himself a whole load of money over the last 30-plus days as well.

In Robinson’s case, many believed his floor was the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25 — rumors swirling that the 7-foot-1 center even received a promise from the illustrious franchise. Instead, Robinson dropped to the New York Knicks at No. 36 overall. Robinson had originally committed to Western Kentucky in July of 2017 before dropping out to prepare for the draft. After skipping the combine last month, Robinson indeed exhibited the potential to be both a steady shot-blocker and three-point maker during his individual evaluations. But with little to go off of but high school highlight reels and small session workout tapes, he understandably fell.

Sometimes the hype is impossible to ignore, but not participating in the combine and staying as mysterious as possible hurt these ultra-talented prospects.

While the 2018 NBA Draft wasn’t quite the trade-heavy, drama-laden extravaganza much of the world expected, there are plenty of narratives to reflect upon. At the end of the day, the ink is barely dry on this year’s festivities and it’ll be some time before there’s any indication of these successes or failures. Still, there are lessons to be learned from every draft, workout or injury process and these are four conversations worth considering as the NBA quickly rolls into the summer league season.

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VIDEO: 2018 NBA Draft Winners

Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may have done better than expected.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may have done better than expected.

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Insiders Video

VIDEO: 2018 NBA Draft Losers

Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may not have done as well as expected.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may not have done as well as expected.

Continue Reading
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