Dante Exum is one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2014 NBA draft class. The Australian combo guard features an impressive combination of size and athleticism with a high basketball IQ, especially for a teenager.
The 18-year-old rising star arrived at the NBA combine for his first major meeting with executives and coaching staffs from around the league. It came with a lot of hype because he's somewhat of an unknown commodity compared to his counterparts.
His presence was also a welcome sight because several other big names opted against taking part in any portion of the event. Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker—potentially the top three selections—all decided to skip it, as noted by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
UPDATE: Friday, May 16 at 4 p.m. ET; Day 2 of Combine
Exum continued to impress during the athletic testing on the second day of the combine. The NBA Draft passed along a Vine of the guard getting ready for action:
ESPN Stats and Info pointed out his three-quarter court testing speed was better than some of the top young guards in the game:
Dante Exum's 3/4 court sprint time of 3.19 is better than Chris Paul (3.22), Steph Curry (3.28), Damian Lillard (3.34)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 16, 2014
Chad Ford of ESPN noted Exum has been working out with the shooting guards throughout the combine and his times are helping him stand out even further:
Dante Exum with a 10.75 sec lane agility drill score. Ran a 3.19 second 3/4 sprint. Both scores top among all 2 guards he's testing with.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 16, 2014
The promising Australian prospect all had good showings in the leaping drills, further illustrating his athleticism, as ESPN's Jeff Goodman highlighted:
Dante Exum had a 31.5 standing vertical and a 34.5 inch max vert. Solid.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 16, 2014
Finally, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reports the teams that had a chance to meet with Exum walked away with positive feelings:
Teams that have met with Dante Exum have raved about him. He's doing very well in these interviews. He has a lot of fans around the league.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 16, 2014
All told, Exum had a very successful combine and moved one step closer to landing inside the top five when draft day arrives on June 26.
Unfortunately, Exum decided not to go through the entire process. Bill Oram of the Orange County Register reported the guard would only go through all of the testing components:
By the way, Dante Exum is doing all the formal stuff here at the combine: medical tests, height, etc. But no open court drills.— Bill Oram (@bill_oram) May 15, 2014
The good news for his draft stock is that might have been enough to wow the decision-makers. Chad Ford of ESPN noted the Aussie's measurements, which were off the charts for a guard, especially if he's going to run the point on a regular basis:
Dante Exum measured 6-6 in shoes, 196 pounds with a 6'9.75 wingspan. That's huge for a NBA PG.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 15, 2014
Remember, he's only 18, so there's probably some growing left to do in the years ahead. It's rare to see a prospect with his ability to lead an offense with that type of size, and it will be a major advantage if he does stick with point guard at the NBA level.
It's certainly the best spot for him, at least for the time being. His jump shot is an area that's going to need some refining, which means he'll be most effective with the ball in hands frequently so he can attack the rim.
In that respect, the comparison he made for himself, which was passed along by Jay King of MassLive.com, makes sense:
Dante Exum said he's part Westbrook, part Manu. Such an interesting mix.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) May 15, 2014
That answer came as part of his meeting with the media, which turned out to be the highlight of the day for Exum. A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England provided a look at the scrum:
Where do you think Exum will get picked?
It's only just beginning for Exum, too. He's likely to become one of the most talked-about players between now and draft day. And all that hype is going to lead to sky-high expectations once he does land with a team.
He currently sits on the fringe of the top five. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, two storied franchises, are currently slated to draft in that area ahead of the draft lottery. Joining one of those teams would obviously amplify the pressure even further.
Exum was fortunate to get some advice from a legend who has dealt with it all before, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
Dante Exum on Kobe's advice: "'There will be a lot of distractions off the court. It’s about how you handle those and focus on the court'"— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) May 15, 2014
The combine probably won't do much for his stock due to his lack of overall participation. The measurables will get people talking, though. And the experience itself will help him when it comes to all the attention he's going to receive in the coming months and years.
Above all else, the outlook is bright for Exum. There are some areas of his game that need improvement and the transition could be tricky given the size of the jump, but the early signs suggest he's got the "it factor" teams love.
That immense upside means he should be one of the first players off the board.