Orlando Magic Should Draft Dante Exum to Pair with Victor Oladipo

Kurt Jonke@@kurtjonkeContributor IIIMay 29, 2014

The Orlando Magic have the fourth and 12th pick in the 2014 NBA draft. While they have a plethora of options, they must grab Dante Exum.

The Australian would be a perfect addition for the team and could form a devastating backcourt with Victor Oladipo.

With the pingpong balls favoring the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando ended up with pick No. 4. In the end, this should not matter—Exum is likely going to be available once the Florida-based franchise takes its turn.

Per Drew Packham of NBA.com, most mock drafts see Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins competing for No. 1 despite Embiid's back issues, per Bleacher Report's sports-injury expert Will Carroll. Jabari Parker seems set to join the Philadelphia 76ers with the third pick.

Even if the Magic had not dropped to No. 4, they should still have had their eyes set on the tall guard.

If Exum isn't available, the Magic have two options: Either they can use Embiid, Wiggins or Parker to trade for a top point guard, or they could use their assets to trade for Exum. However, it seems highly unlikely that any NBA team would want to part with a starting-caliber point guard.

Trading Arron Afflalotogether with Orlando's first pick, for the Australian and a big defensive-minded guy—even a role player—would make absolute sense.


Why Dante Exum Above All Others?

Exum is widely considered the best point guard in the draft. What's more, he would allow Oladipo to play his natural position at the 2.

Adding another shooting guard next to Oladipo would make no sense.

Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless are promising small forwards. Afflalo's future is not yet set in stone, so he may still be in the picture. Orlando simply has no need for another wing man.


Nikola Vucevic averaged double-doubles for the past two seasons, so the Magic are in no dire need of another center—let alone one with back problems. They may want to improve their inside defense, but Kyle O'Quinn showed a lot of potential late last season and can play power forward next to Vucevic. With Dewayne Dedmon, they already have a defensive role player.

Orlando can also use the No. 12 pick for a missing role player, either by picking a promising prospect or trading for a proven veteran.

But what about the point guard position?

Jameer Nelson—a beloved Magic icon and a true warrior—is not getting younger and will need to be replaced eventually. While other spots are filled with youthful talent, the team lacks a young, prolific ball-handler.

Should Nelson get injured, there would be a gaping hole, and Orlando needs another player able to bring the ball up the court and induce the offense. Oladipo seems much more suited to playing the 2-guard.

The No. 4 pick must be used for a playmaker.


Nelson's Part

With Dante Exum, Orlando can strengthen the backcourt considerably for years to come.

Not only does the guard from Down Under show skill in handling and distributing the ball, his frame alone is a big upgrade. The Australian has a size advantage of six inches over Nelson. 

And let's not forget the youngster's long arms.

While Nelson is a fan favorite and wants to stay in Orlando until he retires (per B/R NBA analyst Jared Zwerling), Exum is clearly the future of the franchise. Nelson is very likely to help the rookie ease into his professional career, and with all the experience he can provide, the Magic are well-advised to retain the veteran's services for at least the next couple of seasons.

Nelson still has some gas in his tank.

When Exum hits the rookie wall, the veteran can not only provide advice. He can still play valuable minutes for the Magic. His contract runs through 2014-15, which is partially guaranteed. Orlando fans certainly can't see him put on a different jersey, and the management doesn't seem inclined to let the point guard go.

He has been a team-first player throughout his 10 years with the franchise and still leads by example. When there is a loose ball bouncing down the floor, Nelson comes diving to retrieve it.

No matter the score or record.

It will be vital for Exum's development to have the 6'0" guard as his mentor. In turn, it will be just as important for the Magic to get the 18-year-old ready for top-level competition as soon as possible.

Nelson seemed to be thrilled last season to teach Oladipo, and he most certainly will teach Exum a lot about the NBA. The young prospect will also learn about leadership and enthusiasm by watching Nelson closely.


Exum's Strengths

During the 2014 NBA Draft Combine, the Melbourne product measured in at 6'6" with an impressive wingspan of over 6'9". His long reach allows him to deflect and steal balls as well as contest shots.

Exum also excels at getting to—and finishing at—the rim.

His explosive first step, overall speed and a good eye for what happens on the court make him quite a threat when driving to the hoop.

And if he doesn't score himself, he displays another of his strong suits: passing.

At the 2013 FIBA Under-19 World Championship, he ranked seventh in assists with an average of 3.8 per game and sixth in points with an average of 18.2.

The level of exposure for his country helped him become one of the more mature players in this draft despite his 19th birthday not coming until July 13—almost four weeks after draft night. The level of maturity in such a young talent is a welcome bonus, especially when you want him to lead your team from the point.


Exum's Weaknesses

Exum's major weakness is his lack of strength.

At the combine, he weighed 196 pounds—eight pounds more than at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit but with room for improvement.

To compete in the NBA, he will need to spend more time in the weight room.

Muscle mass will help Exum avoid injuries in a tough league, prevent him from getting abused on defense and give him even more options on offense.

It is a welcome addition to any player's repertoire to have a low-post game. That is especially true for Exum, who will have a size advantage most of the time.

Another question mark is his jump shot.

It has a rather flat arc to it, and with the right form he could improve his accuracy. At his tender age, he should still be comfortable changing his shooting motion. Being a threat from downtown, or at least mid-range, would force the defender to close out on him.

This would lead to easier drives to the hoop.


Why Not Marcus Smart?

For Orlando, picking Smart would not be...clever.

Pun avoided.

While he is a remarkably built and powerful guard, Smart has several flaws that render Exum a much better fit. For one, there is his dubious ball-handling and his tendency to turn the ball over.

With that in mind, imagine a backcourt of Smart and Oladipo.

Exum's arrival would let Oladipo play the 2. With Smart on the roster, he would instead have to switch positions over and over again. Oladipo has made it clear that he'd prefer a clearly defined role instead of coach Jacque Vaughn playing him at various positions, per Brian K. Schmitz (@MagicInsider on Twitter):

Magic rookie SG/PG Victor Oladipo said "it would be nice" if team defined his position after season.

And then there's Smart's temper.

His antics aren't restricted to the extremes of shoving a fan or kicking chairs. It is his entire body language when reacting to referees' calls or mistakes by teammates. These things are looming large behind the talented guard and are likely to influence NBA general managers.

His flopping doesn't help either.

The Magic have a lot of positive energy and great team chemistry. They kept their spirits high during another losing season, and locker room morale never became an issue—or at least the team never showed it.

With Smart, that could change in the blink of an eye.

Think Latrell Sprewell or Gilbert Arenas.

There are many examples in the NBA, past and present, of players messing up team chemistry, regardless of talent level. The reasons behind these situations can be understandable, but the reactions to those circumstances are inexcusable.

In Smart's defense, the fan obviously provoked him—enough that he had regrets afterward (via Doug Gottlieb on Twitter):

Jeff Orr to a #TexasTech friend of mine via text "I kinda let my mouth say something I shouldn't have,I feel bad" #MarcusSmart

No one knows for sure exactly what Orr said or what was going on in Smart's private life at the time. Everyone has bad days, and little things can lead to exaggerated reactions that are instantly regrettable.

Still, Smart has to realize that many NBA fans are not always well-mannered, soft-spoken people, either. It may be tough to swallow one's pride, but sometimes that's what you have to do to avoid hurting your team.

If he can improve his overall attitude, he has a bright future ahead. But not as a true point guard—and not with the Magic.



Dante Exum has a lot of potential. He is young, talented and mature.

Older fans might be reminded of Anfernee Hardaway from the Australian's slender, tall figure. In fact, his entire game is very much like Penny's, who loved to attack the rim himself but struggled from downtown early in his career.

If he can bring some of that flair back, Orlando fans will fall in love with him.

And while Hardaway had the unstoppable Shaquille O'Neal by his side, Exum has the electrifying Oladipo, a solid Vucevic and the talented Harris and Harkless. Strangely enough though, someone like Kyle O'Quinn or Dewayne Dedmon would profit most from Exum's presence.

Both excel at defense and are not required to provide—let alone create—much offense by themselves.

O'Quinn particularly is a guy who can come off picks-and-rolls. Both will be dangerous down low, waiting for their defender to help out on Exum's drives and receiving the ball for an easy dunk.

Defensively, the prospect's wingspan and quickness will result in many steals and deflected passes. The trio of Exum, Oladipo and Harris could form a devastating perimeter defense.

The young guard has a lot of upside to his game and will improve the Orlando Magic considerably at both ends of the floor.

All of these factors considered, the Magic definitely need to add Dante Exum to their roster.


All stats and info taken from NBA.com or basketball-reference.com, unless stated otherwise.

You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.


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