Pairing Dante Exum and Victor Oladipo Is No-Brainer for Orlando Magic

D.J. FosterContributor IMay 30, 2014

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For many teams on draft night, there's an internal struggle of selecting the best player available or finding the best fit.

That won't be an issue for the Orlando Magic if they hone in on Dante Exum.

The Australian point guard prospect is not as exposed as some of his peers, but he doesn't have many areas of weakness.

Let's allow Jonathan Tjarks of SB Nation to introduce you to the young guard, who should be a lock for a top-five pick:

Exum is the son of Cecil Exum, an American who played at UNC in the early 1980s before a professional career in Australia. Dante, his oldest son, is a product of the Australian Institute of Sport, a year-round academy dedicated to producing Olympic athletes.

In that sense, he is the best of both worlds, a fundamentally-sound international player with American-type athleticism. Unlike Monta Ellis, he really does have it all.

At 6'6 and 190 pounds with a 6'9 wingspan, Exum has elite size and athleticism for a combo guard. He's a smooth player with a lightning-quick first step who gets wherever he wants to go on the floor fairly easily. It's essentially impossible to stay in front of him in the open court. 

On paper, Exum has everything you want: size, speed, length and a basketball pedigree.

On video, he puts all of that to use. Exum weaves his way to the rim with ease, attacking well by using smart angles in addition to his natural gifts. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you're watching a 17- or 18-year-old kid and not a seasoned player. It's scary how polished he is and how well he sees the floor, both for his own driving lanes and when looking for teammates.

Exum's size and natural scoring instincts have raised some questions about what position he plays, but it might not really matter all the much. For what it's worth, Exum sees himself as a point guard, as Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman noted:

Exum told me at the NBA combine that he absolutely wants that ball as a point guard. Just imagine this type of size, athleticism and playmaking skill at that position.

If it turns out that his strengths are able to translate and his shooting continues to improve, that would likely make him the focal point of every opposing defensive scheme—the guy opponents have to specifically game-plan for in order to neutralize the mismatch he presents. And that usually means sacrificing elsewhere. 

It's not hard to see Exum fulfilling a role similar to the one Brandon Roy played in Portland as a ball-dominant guard with size that can float between both spots.

While that might not work with every team, particularly those that already have aggressive scorers at the point, it's a perfect fit for the Orlando Magic, who are sitting pretty at pick No. 4.

Last year's first-round pick, Victor Oladipo, is an interesting guard in his own right. Over time, despite playing a good deal of point throughout his rookie season, Oladipo will transform into more of a natural 2 along the lines of Dwyane Wade, who also started his career playing the 1. 

That would fit in well with Exum, as the two players can swap responsibilities offensively while causing nightmares on the other end.

There's a formula to follow here. Just look at Phoenix Suns guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, two slashing "combo guards" who are bulldogs on the ball defensively. A backcourt of Exum and Oladipo would be able to apply a similar amount of ball pressure while also wreaking havoc in passing lanes. There wouldn't be many backcourts more explosive than that one.

Earlier this year, Exum told Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report why it could work:

They’re (Orlando) having some point guard problems and they’re trying to get Victor Oladipo into the point guard. Also, having a good relationship with Victor, I think that would be a good fit. He could kind of mentor me a bit coming into the point guard.

While drafting Exum might put Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo in difficult situations, the two veterans aren't likely to have big roles on a rebuilding roster anyhow, particularly Nelson. Afflalo played some 3 this year in smaller lineups, so it's not hard to imagine him doing it again next year if Exum is selected.

With the possible exception of Andrew Wiggins, Exum represents the biggest personnel need. Oladipo shouldn't be handling the ball and initiating the offense for the majority of the game, and there are productive players at the positions some of the other top prospects could potentially occupy.

Duke forward Jabari Parker has a lot in common with Tobias Harris, for example, and Nikola Vucevic is one of the most underrated centers in the game, taking off some of the shine with Joel Embiid. 

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 20: Dante Exum #7 talks with Andrew Wiggins #8 of the World Select Team talks against the USA Junior Select Team during the game on April 20, 2013 at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
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But is it smart to draft a guard with such a high pick, especially when it's possible there will be a franchise-quality big man on the board? 

You can look at it in one of two ways. Either you can devalue the position because the market is saturated with great point guards, or you can say it's a point guard-dominated league and that your team will be at a disadvantage every night without a good two-way player at that position.

Either way, it's hard to deny Exum's talent. In nine games at the U-19 World Championships, Exum posted averages of 18.2 points, 3.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 7.1 free-throw attempts in just 29 minutes a game. Obviously, that's not a huge sample size, but neither is the NCAA tournament. 

If there's one big concern with pairing Exum and Oladipo, it's a potential lack of shooting. Although Exum has appeared to have added weight to his frame and improved his jumper, the three-point ball was never a primary weapon for him in Australia or in international play. With Oladipo shooting just 32.7 percent in his rookie year, this could be an issue.

Ultimately, though, you would think both Exum, who turns 19 in July, and Oladipo, 22, will get much better in the skill department over time. As athletes, they both grade out incredibly well, so there's plenty of good putty to mold.

Given his potential and fit, taking Exum at pick No. 4 is an easy decision for Orlando. Now the Magic just need to hope the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks or Philadelphia 76ers don't like him more.