The entire 2014 NBA draft has been shaken up due to Joel Embiid's recent foot injury, but that's good news for Australian guard Dante Exum, as it now looks like the 18-year-old is a lock to be a top-three pick on Thursday night.
Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo Sports reported that Embiid, who was possibly going to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 1 overall pick, had a fractured foot that would take four to six months to fully heal. As Alex Kennedy from Basketball Insiders points out, three injuries up to this point in his basketball career are a big concern for some teams:
Joel Embiid has now had injuries to his knee, back and foot in his brief four-year basketball career. That's going to scare a lot of teams.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 19, 2014
Now, with Embiid likely slipping out of the top three, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are expected to be two of the first three players taken, but now it appears that Exum will also hear his name called with the two top-tier college prospects.
While Exum hasn't gotten a chance to play on the national stage after playing in Australia, scouts have been raving about him for some time. At 6'6'', he's a lengthy combo guard who will likely be a point guard at the next level, and he looks like he has plenty of potential.
Thanks to his size, Exum does a great job finishing around the rim and slashing to the basket while crashing the glass when needed. While his jumper isn't developed yet, Exum is already a proven floor general with excellent court vision and active hands on defense.
However, Exum has noted that his game has changed while spending more time preparing for the NBA than playing in actual games, according to Gary Washburn from The Boston Globe:
My game has changed a whole lot since those clips. I am a get-to-the-rim-type of player and I guess that’s what puts me in a good position to be a point guard and that kind of vocal leader. I have that voice to say to [teammates] what needs to be done. I am the voice on the court for the coach.
All of those skills are enough to make Exum a first-round prospect, but according to ESPN's Chad Ford, teams are just as impressed with his brain, as several teams reportedly believe he's the smartest player in the draft class:
Sources in Orlando, Philly & Milwaukee all said Exum tested off the charts in psych testing. Might be most intelligent player in draft.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 23, 2014
Scouts aren't the only ones who have been impressed, as even fellow prospects have spoken highly of Exum.
"Even though you haven't seen that much of him, it's his upside — he's 6-6, he's athletic and he plays the point guard position," former Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart told Nicole Auerbach from USA Today. "He's a phenomenal athlete."
So far, Exum has already worked out with the three teams drafting behind the Cavaliers, impressing the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz during his individual workouts. Now, according to ESPN.com's Andy Katz, even the Cavaliers are trying to get Exum in for a last-minute workout despite already having Kyrie Irving on the roster.
As Katz points out, it's unlikely Cleveland will take Exum with the first pick, but the workout is likely in the event that the Cavs trade down and he's available wherever they pick. Given his skill set and size, he'd do just fine as a shooting guard to start alongside Irving, giving the Cavs an exciting backcourt.
According to Ford, Exum's workout with the Sixers makes it unlikely he falls past them at No. 3, while ESPN's Jeff Goodman tweeted that the Bucks are reportedly intrigued by the 18-year-old:
Dante Exum had a strong workout in Philly on Sunday. Don’t think he slides past 3.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 23, 2014
I don't think Milwaukee winds up taking him over Parker or Wiggins, but told by sources that the Bucks really intrigued with Dante Exum.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 20, 2014
Regardless of where he plays, Exum looks like the real deal coming out of Australia, and with time, he should end up being one of the best players to come out of this year's draft.