CHICAGO — Dante Exum is new to the NBA, but he is hardly news to the dozens of scouts and executives packed into Quest Multisport, the facility that hosts the two-day NBA Draft Combine.
The 18-year-old Australian guard projects as a potential top-five draft pick June 26 in Brooklyn, a still-developing plot that will be impacted considerably Tuesday when the lottery is set.
Exum (6-foot-5 1/2, 196 pounds) will not take the court other than for a handshake with fellow Australian Cameron Bairstow (New Mexico), but he is scheduled to meet with most teams with a chance to select him in the lottery next month. His frame is similar to NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, who was 6-4 3/4, 184.4 pounds here last year.
There is no real book on Exum, who considered attending UCLA, Kentucky, Oregon and Michigan before the 2014 Under-19 World Championships, where he emerged with prodding from coaches and teammates.
“After the championship, having my coaches advise I’m projected in the top five, it was 100 percent,” Exum said Thursday of his NBA decision.
Coming out of that tournament, one scout called him the “best player in the world” among international prospects at the event.
There has been some culture shock in relocating from Melbourne to Los Angeles, where Exum is training before the onslaught of pre-draft private workouts gets rolling in June, though the teenager said he is adapting thanks to the many similarities between the United States and his home country. Not everyone in his family agrees.
“I’m not driving yet,” he said with a smirk, “but my mom … she came to visit and was caught driving on the wrong side of the road (in Los Angeles).
His on-court transition might not be as challenging. Exum knows several of agent Rob Pelinka’s clients, including Detroit Pistons post prodigy Andre Drummond, and watched oodles of college basketball. He also is using Andrew Bogut, also from Melbourne, as a resource.
Bogut, a first-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks since traded to the Golden State Warriors, made the green uniform a popular one in his home country.
Exum is meeting with the Bucks, who have the greatest odds — 25 percent chance — to secure the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, as well as the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Pistons and many more. Being the No. 1 pick like Bogut (2005) is not a concern, Exum claims. He would have competition for being the first point guard — let alone player, in a draft featuring Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins and his Jayhawks teammate Joel Embiid and Duke forward Jabari Parker — starting with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis.
“I’m not really looking at position in the draft and where teams are,” he said. “For me it’s whether I fit the situation. I want to go to the right situation.”
That fit will be better defined as coaches and general managers get a chance to measure Exum in their own building with interviews and workouts coming en masse to his already crowded calendar. The ability to shoot from the perimeter is not a consistent part of his game, and one scout told The Sports Xchange “confidence and whether he can find a comfort” level are serious considerations to weigh.
However, he could also be the fastest with the ball in his hands among all players in the draft with explosiveness to squeeze in and out of tight areas. Exum was defined as a “team guy all the way.”
That could be a product of the examples Exum is studying to get there. He identified John Stockton and Steve Nash as the players he wants to mimic in the NBA.
“(Scouts) are trying to get a feel for where I am,” Exum said. “I say straight up I’m a 1. The (point guard) position has got me here.
“Transition is a strong point for me. I’m a rebounding guard and can get the ball (upcourt) quickly. And beating my man off the dribble. Getting to the basket and creating helpside defense”
While he awaits constructive criticism from his first encounters with peers, some of whom will directly oppose him in joint workouts before the draft, Exum wants to work on his body control and balance to better finish against the heavy-handed contact he knows is coming in the NBA.
“What I’ve done before,” Exum said, “isn’t going to work now.”
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