Capping off a compelling rise throughout the pre-draft process, Dante Exum of Australia was selected by Utah Jazz with the No. 5 pick in the 2014 NBA draft Thursday night, the team announced:
Being a top-5 pick, there will undoubtedly be some pressure on his teenage shoulders from the moment he steps on the floor for the Jazz.
Exum, 18, certainly improved his draft stock at the NBA combine leading up to the draft, as Chad Ford of ESPN pointed out:
He is basically an attacking point guard in a small forward’s body, which makes his potential all the more enticing. Clearly it was enticing enough for the Jazz to select him.
An uber-athletic floor general, Exum is also an impressive passer with game-changing court vision that helps him find open teammates in transition or in half-court sets. He possesses a smooth shooting stroke from behind the three-point line as well. Throw in the fact that he can attack the rim with his explosive first step, and Exum will be the total offensive package at the professional level.
Interestingly enough, American basketball fans almost got a chance to see his skill set stateside earlier than expected, as he told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:
A lot of people think I just was going to the NBA. People don't realize how difficult a decision it was. I had my five schools -- Oregon, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and UNC -- and I was going to pick one. A lot of guys have the college experience, and I wanted it. It was a hard thing to give up. But I realized [the NBA] was my dream and I wanted to go for it.
While he ultimately didn’t choose to attend college, he should thrill fans of the Jazz in his rookie campaign. He already has the skills and physical attributes to be an explosive player; he'll just need to focus on polishing his game and getting adjusted to the speed of the NBA.
Look for him to use his dynamic athleticism and quickness to compete for a starting spot right away in Utah. At the very least, he is a sure bet to log significant minutes in Year 1. Certainly this is a franchise that knows all about the impact a top-notch point guard can bring to the team. While rangy guard Exum isn't going to be John Stockton right away, he fills a need and should help the Jazz immediately.