Australian prospect Dante Exum has intrigued NBA executives with his athleticism and high ceiling. They also might be interested in what's apparently a fairly unique playing style.
Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy (h/t Sulia) reports that Exum sees his game falling somewhere between Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili:
I can’t look at one player and say that’s who I play like, but I can see different traits that players have that I see: I look at Russell Westbook as that explosive point guard that can get to the rim, and also Manu Ginoboli when he gets into the paint and the way he can finish. It’s just looking at different players and what they can do, and how that can help my game.
Few have had much of an opportunity to see Exum in extended action, so we just might have to take his word on how his style has been influenced.
SB Nation's Paul Flannery called Exum an "international man of mystery," writing, "Scouts say he can [play], but no one really knows how he'll adjust to playing in the league with such a modest resumé."
But the exciting thing about Exum is his ability to make plays with a 6'6" frame. As the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell notes, "He could be everything former Charlotte Bobcat Shaun Livingston might have been had Livingston not suffered that heinous knee injury as a Los Angeles Clipper. People of Exum’s and Livingston’s dimensions seldom have their playmaking skill."
By the sound of it, Exum is more athletic than Ginobili and more deferential than Westbrook. That's a dangerous combination.
Exum will have to continue working on his shot, and of course, he'll have to grow accustomed to playing at the NBA level. That kind of stuff probably won't happen overnight. Nevertheless, the 18-year-old's upside makes him a sure lottery pick, potentially even a top-five grab.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix predicts that, "Next month an NBA team -- probably one picking in the top five -- will nab Exum and place the future of the franchise on his slender shoulders."
However, Mannix also echoes the question marks:
There is still so much about Exum that is unknown. Is he a point guard or is his future at the two? Exum insists he is a point -- "That's the position that has got me here, that's what I want to be going forward" -- though NBA teams have questions about his defense and playmaking. After overhauling his jump shot in 2012, Exum's perimeter shooting has improved significantly, though teams will undoubtedly want him to be more consistent. At 18, there is still plenty of time for him to grow.
Like many prospects touted for their physical makeup, there's a danger that Exum never reaches his potential. That probably won't deter anyone, though, not when that potential is sky high.
Not when it just might resemble some beautifully bizarre hybrid of Westbrook and Ginobili.