Drafted by: Utah Jazz, No. 5 overall
School: Australian Institute of Sport
Height/Weight: 6'6", 196 lbs
Age: 18 years old
Projected NBA Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Pro Comparison: Michael Carter-Williams/Penny Hardaway
Twitter Handle: @Daanteee
The buzz surrounding Dante Exum has increased by the month dating back to the summer of 2012.
After leading Australia to back-to-back medals at the FIBA World Championships and putting on a show at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit, Exum emerged as a top prospect.
He hasn't played much competitive basketball in 2014, as he's been training for the draft and his first NBA season. But there isn't another guard in the field who offers Exum's upside as a playmaker and defender.
Exum's upside is ultimately driven by his sensational physical tools for his position. At 6'6" with a 6'9" wingspan, he has tremendous size and length for a ball-handler where he's a nightmare mismatch at both ends of the floor.
His first step is lightning quick and his last one is explosive. He's a world-class athlete who can glide down the floor, effortlessly slide side to side and soar above the rim.
And at 196 pounds and just 18 years old (he'll be 19 in July), he has a solid basketball frame and plenty of time to add muscle.
Exum is a scoring point guard with the size and skill set to play on or off the ball. He can run the offense as a facilitator or take it over as a scorer from the wing.
Extremely quick and shifty with the ability to change directions on a dime, Exum can blow by defenders on the perimeter or in transition on the break.
At the point, he's dangerous in the drive-and-kick game, given how tough he is to contain off the dribble. He can sometimes develop tunnel vision, but with better teammates around him in the pros, he shouldn't feel obligated to do as much with the ball.
Exum just has a natural ability to create scoring opportunities, whether he's pushing the ball up the floor before the defense can get set or he's breaking it down in the half court.
Though more of a scorer than a distributor at this stage, Exum has a high basketball IQ and impressive vision. There shouldn't be much concern regarding his ability to balance shooting with passing.
Exum can light up the scoreboard in a variety of different ways.
He's at his best attacking the rim, where he finishes at an excellent rate thanks to his size and athleticism. He has the body control and dexterity to finish through or around traffic, and he can elevate above the rim for easy layups or dunks.
And with the size and versatility to play the 2, Exum can also score off the ball. He moves well using cuts and flashes. You'll often see him catch a pass in the lane and slice through it for a bucket.
He can also catch fire on the perimeter as a pull-up or spot-up shooter. Exum has the shot-making ability to connect off the bounce or the catch with NBA range, though shooting consistency will remain atop his must-improve list moving forward.
With his size, length and lateral quickness, Exum should be able to blanket opposing point guards and cover 2s or 3s. That's three positions he should be able to effectively guard.
His intelligence and discipline also play to his strengths as a defender. It wouldn't be surprising to see him average close to two steals per game starting as a rookie.
You just won't find many point guards who can present as many problems as Exum can defensively. Consider him a legitimate two-way weapon in the backcourt.
Exum hasn't exactly given scouts much of a sample size to evaluate from. He's generated tons of interest based off two tournaments and an exhibition showcase (Nike Hoop Summit).
The weaknesses he's flashed are the ones tied to most young point guards. Exum needs to improve his decision making with the ball. He can look to force the issue or shot at times. And he also needs to work on his outside stroke. His jumper is capable right now—it's just not reliable.
Exum is going to make his mistakes as a rookie.
He's going from the high school level in Australia straight to the NBA, where the physical transition is going to be a challenge. Regardless, he has the size, athleticism and skills to generate offense from the start.
I'd imagine he'll produce right away, though it could take a few years before his efficiency comes around. Expect his point and assist totals to come with low shooting percentages and plenty of turnovers in 2014-15.
Exum has All-Star upside, and I'm going to bet on him reaching it.
He's just got too much going for him at 18 years old. Besides his eye-opening natural talent, he also has the genes, as his dad, Cecil, played with Michael Jordan at North Carolina.
If he can improve his shooting consistency and learn the nuances of the pro game, Exum has the tools to evolve into one of the most potent guards in the league.