Best Potential Landing Spots for Australian Phenom Dante Exum in 2014 NBA Draft
If you haven't heard of Dante Exum, do yourself a favor and spend the rest of the day perusing the vast reaches of YouTube so you can watch every single video of him that exists on the internet.
You'll be glad you did.
The Australian combo guard has officially declared for the 2014 NBA draft, per ESPN's Chad Ford, and that makes an already stacked class even stronger. You can add Exum's name in among those of Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart, as he's one of the players who is all but guaranteed to go right at the top of the selection process.
As Exum's new agent, Rob Pelinka, told Ford, "Dante is destined to be a 'franchise' point guard in this next generation of great NBA players."
I almost agree.
He's certainly a franchise player, one capable of becoming a superstar. In fact, B/R's Jonathan Wasserman compared him to "a potent blend of Penny Hardaway and Russell Westbrook."
However, let's not limit him to just running the show as a point guard. Given his 6'6" frame at only 18 years old, he's more than big enough to line up at the 2, and his skill set allows him to do so as well.
Because of this positional versatility, it's almost harder to find teams he wouldn't mesh with than ones that would allow him to flourish. Yet there are still squads that are starting to emerge as the best fits of all.
The Charlotte Bobcats desperately need some help scoring the basketball.
Although Steve Clifford has the defense playing phenomenally, even with Al Jefferson protecting the hoop for quite a few minutes per game, the 'Cats are putting up only 100.4 points per 100 possessions, via Basketball-Reference.
That has to change if Charlotte ever hopes to move firmly out of the realm of laughingstocks. The defense was carrying this squad at the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign, but the offense is starting to catch up with the Bobcats and push them back down toward the bottom of the NBA.
There's no telling how far they'll fall, and with a bit of luck during the lottery process, they could potentially draft an offensive spark plug to pair with Kemba Walker. Shooting guard and power forward are the positions of choice, so Dante Exum would be a perfect fit.
With his quick first step and ball-handling skills, he could take pressure off Walker and provide a nice scoring punch from the very first day he stepped onto an NBA court. Exum wouldn't solve the three-point woes, but he would fit right in with the get-to-the-line mentality that Clifford preaches in Charlotte.
The Bobcats have a promising future given their young players and future assets. Exum would make it even brighter.
The Denver Nuggets getting their hands on Dante Exum would defy the odds.
There's no way that Ty Lawson is letting his team slip all the way down toward the top of the selection process, but the Nuggets do have the ability to take the New York Knicks' first-round draft pick. If Carmelo Anthony wears out and the Knicks have things go wrong—do you really want to bet against that at this point?—New York won't make the playoffs.
Even in the weak Eastern Conference.
And if that happens, the odds of a top selection only improve. It's a longshot, but there's at least a chance.
Should the odds be defied, the Nuggets are a perfect fit for Exum.
Not only is shooting guard the biggest hole in the lineup, but he'd be in a low-pressure situation while surrounded by a roster that complements his talents quite well. The Nuggets don't need much help in the outside-shooting department, especially when Danilo Gallinari returns from ACL surgery 2.0, but they could use another guard who can get to the rim at will.
Can you imagine the threat of a Ty Lawson/Exum/Gallo/Kenneth Faried/JaVale McGee lineup when everyone is healthy?
Especially because Lawson has developed into such a fantastic distributor, it's one that would pose a challenge for just about every team in the Western Conference.
And if the speedy-but-diminutive point guard currently trails only Chris Paul and Kendall Marshall in points created by assist per game, per NBA.com's SportVU data, it's tough to grasp just how dominant he'd be with another premier offensive weapon at his disposal.
Los Angeles Lakers
In terms of playing style, Dante Exum could do better than the 2014-15 version of the Los Angeles Lakers.
All we know is that Kobe Bryant will be back and starting at shooting guard, which means that there won't be as many touches for the rest of the backcourt. But in a way, that might be good for Exum's development, because it will force him to hone his off-ball skills.
Then once the Mamba retires and is replaced by a marquee free agent—Kevin Love, for example—Exum gets to take over sole custody of the rock.
It's more of a long-term plan, but it's one that leaves him in a better place for the more important part of his career. As exciting as it is to see a rookie dominate during his first go-round in the world of professional basketball, it's more beneficial for him to turn into a stud during his prime.
Additionally, Exum would have the ability to throw on the famed purple-and-gold jersey.
Even though the Lakers have struggled during the past two seasons and may finish right at the bottom of the Western Conference in 2013-14, they're still the Lakers. One of basketball's most historic franchises, they have international appeal that would only be aided by the presence of an Australian superstar.
Exum actually already has an L.A. connection too. He hired Rob Pelinka, per ESPN's Chad Ford, and that just happens to be the same agent who considers a certain Mamba one of his 16 clients currently in the NBA.
The hiring of Pelinka as his representation is also interesting as Pelinka also represents Kobe Bryant. Exum is one of the most intriguing options in this draft. He is definitely a risky pick, but he could immediately change the fortunes of the Lakers if they were to take him.
I'm not exactly sure what makes him so risky, but everything else is correct.
The Philadelphia 76ers have such a bright future that I'd actually be surprised if they failed to make the playoffs next year.
Especially if they added Dante Exum, who would only help build the offensive potency of Brett Brown's squad.
Between Michael Carter-Williams, Exum and Nerlens Noel, the Sixers would have one of the most promising young cores in the NBA. And given the positional versatility of the Australian combo guard and the size of MCW, Philadelphia could use a positionless backcourt that switches on every screen.
Oh, and the Sixers have cap space, will probably gain more assets by trading Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and/or Thaddeus Young before the deadline and gain a first-round pick from the New Orleans Pelicans if Anthony Davis steers them out of the bottom five.
This team is going to be dangerous in the very near future, especially if Exum is added into the mix. Remember, this is a guy who B/R's Jonathan Wasserman compared to MCW as a worst-case scenario:
Worst-case projection, we're talking about a Michael Carter-Williams—a mismatch at the point who can navigate through traffic and get to any spot on the floor. Like Carter-Williams, Exum can switch back and forth between pass-first and scoring mode. And with an extra few inches of height and length, he's able to see over the defense and make plays within it.
Imagine having a backcourt with a Rookie of the Year winner and another young player whose floor is that ROY winner.
OK, you can stop salivating now.
The Utah Jazz are yet another team with a promising core of youngsters.
Trey Burke is looking solid during his first season running the show, and the frontcourt combination of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors is finally panning out. Kanter in particular has been playing quite well in recent days.
Plus there's Gordon Hayward at small forward, who looks like he could be a terrific Robin one day. The Butler product shouldn't be a No. 1 option for any competitive team, but you could do far worse than throwing him out as a secondary player.
While Alec Burks has been stepping up his game recently, shooting guard is still the biggest hole in Salt Lake City. And lo and behold, that's exactly where Exum could end up playing.
Having a backcourt in which both players are capable of handling the ball and either distributing or scoring at elite levels is highly beneficial, and that's exactly what a Burke-Exum pairing would bring to the table.
Given the youth and upside of their core, the Jazz are going to be good in the near future. It's hard to accept that now given the perceived futility of the team (though they've been playing much better lately), but it's true.
And Exum only makes them better.