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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 profile picture
Updated 10 months ago on
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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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