Introducing Basketball's Best-Kept Secret, Australian Guard Dante Exum
I don't mind pumping the hype machine with this one—Dante Exum might be one of the top five prospects on the planet under 19 years old.
The son of Cecil Exum, who played at North Carolina and professionally in Australia, he has slowly made his way up the ranks by standing out in international competition in back-to-back summers.
He recently led Australia to a bronze medal at the FIBA under-19 World Championships in Prague.
Exum will complete his scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport in December. At that point, he'll have a couple of options.
As an international prospect born in 1995, Exum will be eligible for the 2014 NBA draft. He could declare in June, where he'd battle for position with top American prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker.
The other option he's considering is joining a college in the U.S. He's currently being recruited by Indiana, Louisville, LSU and other high-profile schools, according to Rivals.
Just to give you an idea of how high I am on Exum, I'd make him the No. 1 overall favorite in 2015 if he chose that route.
Whether he decides to go to college next season or enter the draft, he is a surefire future NBA star and the game's best-kept secret.
Exum has spectacular physical tools for his position. At 6'6'', he has the size and silky-smooth athleticism of a 2-guard or wing, which makes him tough to cover given he handles the ball.
A point guard with a scoring skill set, he packs a potent punch of shiftiness, speed and playmaking ability.
He's nimble yet explosive. With a gap to hit, he can go into jet-pack mode and launch himself toward the rim, where he burns rotations and leaves help defenders helpless.
He is a tremendous athlete with a quick, long and effective first step. He's nearly unguardable in the open floor or one-on-one off the dribble.
Exum averaged 18 points a game for Australia during this summer's FIBA World Championships. He dropped 33 on Spain, 28 on Lithuania, 21 on Serbia, 20 on Russia and 20 more on China.
Though many consider him a point guard, he can just as easily take over a game as a scorer.
For starters, he has unwavering confidence. Though his jumper lacks consistency, he's capable of lighting it up from the perimeter and knocking down contested shots in the face of defenders.
His quickness, size, athleticism and handle allow him to create his own shot at will, both attacking the rim and separating in the mid-range.
As an attacker, he gets an extra burst when going up that allows him to hang and adjust his body in the air. He's at his best off the dribble, where perimeter defenders struggle to contain and rim protectors struggle to protect. Exum is just too quick out of the triple threat and too explosive lifting off.
On the perimeter, he can dance with the ball and pull up off the dribble. He rises and fires over defenders without much of a contest.
Exum has the physical tools and arsenal of a scoring 2-guard, but playmaking and facilitating strengths push him over the top.
Though he has takeover ability as a scorer, Exum maintains a willingness to create for teammates if that's what the play calls for.
His first step is so deadly that he's constantly in a position to make a play, whether it's for himself or someone else. His breakdown quickness causes defenses to collapse, resulting in drive-and-kicks or dump-off passes to open shooters or dunkers.
With space in front of him, Exum is impossible to slow down or nudge off track. He has the handle and body control to slip and slide off challenging defenders.
Whether he's running the offense or running off screens, Exum remains an offensive threat at either backcourt position.
NBA Outlook and Draft Breakdown
Exum's blend of elite physical tools, great genes and an advanced, versatile skill set pushes his ceiling to heights that very few can reach.
He has the chance to be one of those players whom you just can't prepare for—a guy who impacts games even on off-shooting nights.
If he proves he can handle primary ball-handling duties, forget about it—you won't find another point guard in the league who'll be able to physically match up with his size and explosiveness.
Teams invested in the 2014 draft will be hoping that Exum decides to declare this upcoming June. Otherwise, he could be the prize of 2015.
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